SUMMER 2015 - Volume 62, Number 2

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SUMMER 2015 - Volume 62, Number 2
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Air Force Historical Foundation
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Summer 2015 - Volume 62, Number 2
Book Reviews
The U.S. Air Force in the Air War over Serbia, 1999
Daniel L. Haulman
Pierre Clostermann Tells It How It Wasn’t
A. D. Harvey
A War Too Long: Part I
John Schlight
Operation Thunderclap and the Black March: Two World War II Stories from the 91st Bomb Group
By Richard Allison
Review by Steven D. Ellis
An Air Fighter’s Scrapbook
By Ira Jones
Jagdstaffel 356: The Story of a German Fighter Squadron
By Elizabeth M. Kahnert
Night Raiders of the Air: Being the Experiences of a Night Flying Pilot Who Raided Hunland
By A. R. Kingsford
Review by Richard P. Hallion
World Order
By Henry Kissinger
Review by John Cirafici
Australia and the War in the Air: Volume I—The Centenary History of Australia and the Great War
By Michael Molkentin
Review by Carl J. Bobrow
Bomber Aircraft of 305 Squadron
By Lechostaw Musialkowski
Review by Frank Willingham
The Birth of the Royal Air Force: An Encyclopedia of British Air Power Before and During the Great War
By Ian M. Philpott
Review by Richard P. Hallion
Other Than War: The American Experience and Operations in the Post-Cold War Decade
By Frank N. Schubert
Review by Golda Eldridge
Allied Air Power 1942-1945: A Newsreel History of Allied Air Force Operations in World War II
By Perry Wolff
Review by Steve Agoratus
Wings of the Navy: Testing British and U.S. Carrier Aircraft
By Eric Brown
Review by Frank Willingham
Surprised at Being Alive: An Accidental Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam and Beyond
By Robert F. Curtis
Review by Frank Willingham
History of Rocketry and Astronautics: AAS History Series, Volume 41
By Kerry Dougherty, ed.
Review by Paul D. Stone
The Supercarriers: The Forrestal and Kitty Hawk Classes
By Andrew Faltum
Review by Frank Willingham
Fall of the Flying Dragon: South Vietnamese Air Force, 1973-1975
By Albert Grandolini
Review by Dik Daso
Reconnaissance and Bomber Aces of World War I
By Jon Guttman
Review by Carl Bobrow
Stay the Distance: The Life and Times of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Michael Beetham
By Peter Jacobs
Review by Robin Higham
George Owen Squier: U.S. Army Major General; Inventor; Aviation Pioneer; Founder of Muzak
By Paul W. Clark & Laurence A. Lyons
Review by Carl Bobrow
Berlin Airlift: Air Bridge to Freedom—A Photographic History of the Great Airlift
By Bruce McAllister
Review by Steven D. Ellis
American Bomber Aircraft Development in World War II
By Bill Norton
Review by Joe McCue
I Won’t be Home Next Summer: Flight Lieutenant R. N. Selley DFC (1917-1941)
By Ron Selley & Kerrin Cocks
Review by Paul Jacobs
Japanese Fighters in defense of the Homeland, 1941-1944, Vol. I
By Leszek A. Wielicko
Review by Scott A. Willey
The Millionaire’s Squadron: The Remarkable Story of 601 Squadron and the Flying Sword
By Tom Loulson
Review by Joseph Romito
Guardian Angel: Life and Death Adventures with Pararescue, the World’s Most Powerful Commando Rescue Force
By William F. Sine
Review by John D. McElroy
Books To Review
Upcoming Events and Reunions
New History Mystery
COVER: An F–100 of the 90th TFS leaves the area after striking a suspected Viet Cong target, March 1966.
The Air Force Historical Foundation
The Journal of the
Air Force Historical Foundation
Summer 2015 Volume 62 Number 2
Richard I. Wolf
Editor Emeritus
Jacob Neufeld
Air Force Historical Foundation
P.O. Box 790
Clinton, MD 20735-0790
(301) 736-1959
E-mail: [email protected]
On the Web at
Board of Directors
Patron Members
Maj Gen Dale W. Meyerrose, USAF (Ret.)
Maj Gen Kenneth M. DeCuir, USAF (Ret.)
1st Vice Chairman
Lt Gen Charles L. Johnson II, USAF (Ret.)
2d Vice Chairman
Lt Gen Christopher Miller, USAF (Ret.)
CMSgt John R. McCauslin, USAF (Ret.)
Col William J. Dalecky, USAF (Ret.)
Lt Col Steven Gress, Jr., USAF (Ret.)
Ms. Jonna Doolittle Hoppes
Col Thomas Owens, USAF (Ret.)
Mr. Daniel R. Sitterly, USAF SES
Maj Willard Strandberg, Jr. USAF (Ret.)
Lt Gen Stephen G. Wood, USAF (Ret.)
Col Gerald F. Christeson, USAF (Ret.)
Col Dennis M. Drew, USAF (Ret.)
Mr. Darrell Dvorak
Dr. Jerome V. Martin
Gen James P. McCarthy, USAF (Ret.)
Lt Gen George D. Miller, USAF (Ret.)
Col Bobby Moorhatch, USAF (Ret.)
Col J Calvin Shahbaz
Lt Col Raymond C. Tagge, USAF (Ret.)
President’s Circle
Col William J. Dalecky, USAF (Ret.)
Maj Gen Charles J. Dunlap, Jr., USAF
Col Wray Johnson, USAF (Ret.)
Editor, Air Power History
Richard I. Wolf
Editor Emeritus, Air Power History
Jacob Neufeld
Lt Col James A. Vertenten, USAF (Ret.)
Secretary to the Board and
Executive Director
Mrs. Angela J. Bear, Office Manager
Gold Level ($10,000 or more)
Lockheed Martin Corporation
Northrop Grumman
Mr. Michael Clarke
Maj Gen John S. Patton, USAF (Ret.)
ROKAF Historical Foundation
Dr. Richard P. Hallion
Lt Gen Christopher Miller, USAF (Ret.)
Lt Gen Michael A. Nelson, USAF (Ret.)
Col Wayne C. Pittman, Jr., USAF (Ret.)
Maj Willard Strandberg, Jr., USAF (Ret.)
Torchmark Corporation
Book Review Editor
Scott A. Willey
Jim Vertenten
Angela J. Bear
Air Power History (ISSN 1044-016X) is produced for Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by
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Copyright © 2015 by the Air Force Historical
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History / SUMMER 2015
From the Editor
As you may note from the flyers inside the front cover, and on page 4, there is a symposium
upcoming on October 15 and 16 of this year, at the National Defense University, covering the
air war over Vietnam. As a result, we have featured, as the third article in the magazine, a
longer than normal piece on the overall USAF effort in Vietnam up until 1968. We expect to
run the 1968 to 1975 part of the story in the next issue. The article began life as a pamphlet
published by the Air Force History and Museums program on the occasion of the Air Force’s
Fiftieth Anniversary in 1997. It has not been superceded, and it provided an excellent background for the October symposium. We would love to see you all there in October.
We open with a more modern piece by Dan Haulman, an excellent and frequent author
in air power history, on the USAF in the air over Serbia in 1999. It seems hard to believe
that the episode was more than fifteen years ago now.
Our second article is from across the pond, our English contributor, A.D. Harvey, and his
reluctant debunking of the myths of Pierre Clostermann. He is considerate in his criticism
of liberties taken with the historical record, and it is an interesting history.
As mentioned above, our third article is by John Schlight, retired deputy chief of the
Office of Air Force History. A very fine piece of work.
Of course, we include our usual quota of book reviews, twenty-four this time, prepared
under the guidance of our excellent Book Review Editor, Scott Willey. He manages to keep
track of all the many volumes that come in, and we try to get each of them into our pages.
We include the normal set of Upcoming Events and impending Reunions, along with the
sad passing of one of the few remaining Doolittle Raiders. Finally, we conclude with the
revamped mystery of an historical nature. Enjoy.
Air Power History and the Air Force Historical Foundation disclaim responsibility for statements,
either of fact or of opinion, made by contributors. The submission of an article, book review, or other
communication with the intention that it be published in this journal shall be construed as prima facie
evidence that the contributor willingly transfers the copyright to Air Power History and the Air Force
Historical Foundation, which will, however, freely grant authors the right to reprint their own works,
if published in the authors’ own works.
History / SUMMER 2015
History / SUMMER 2015
From the President
Dear Foundation Members and Friends:
As always, let me thank you for the part that each of you has played in the history and legacy of air power, and for your generous support of our Foundation.
Yet, for some time, I’ve expressed a deep concern about our Foundation’s financial future.
It is my great pleasure to share some very good news. Recently we received a
very generous bequest from one of our longtime members. This gracious gift will
go a long way towards ensuring a secure financial future for your Foundation.
This new circumstance will help solidify our position as an independent advocate
within the air power community. We now have the latitude to review our programs and member services with the vision to grow our Foundation in a way that
furthers our mission to “Know the past…Shape the Future.” However, we must continue to: operate on a tight budget;
annually raise funds through sponsorships and donations; use our new, viable status for the betterment of our
Foundation; and prove worthy of future bequests and support.
Mark your calendars for the second week of this coming October. On Tuesday, October 13th we will host our annual
Awards Banquet. As in past years, we will recognize two individuals who have made a lifetime of contribution to the
making and documenting of Air Force history and those who authored the best historical writings of the past year. The
Banquet will be held at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Virginia. It will be preceded by the presentation of
the Doolittle Award in an afternoon ceremony at the Air Force Memorial. This award recognizes an Air Force unit whose
history exemplifies the air power contribution to national security, valor, esprit-de-corps, and superior mission execution
exemplified by then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, his seventy-nine fellow airmen and their 1942 bombing of Tokyo, Japan.
Additionally, on October 15th and 16th, in cooperation with our sister service historical foundations, we will co-host a
joint symposium entitled “Violent Skies: The Air War over Viet Nam 1965-72.” The venue for this event will be at the
National Defense University at Ft. Leslie J. McNair in Washington DC. We are in the process of assembling a distinguished group of panelists and speakers. We invite your suggestions and recommendations for air power experts with
Vietnam or research experience in the conflict to participate in the symposium. And of course, would greatly appreciate
your attendance at this much anticipated event, as well as our award festivities on the 13th.
We are extremely pleased that our financial bedrock is being established. However, there is much hard work ahead of
us. Not only do we need your continued financial support but your ideas as well in keeping our organization relevant
and true to our mission. Our fervent bottom line: continue the tradition of preserving our legacy to educate future generations on the contributions of air power to our Nation. Failing to do so would mean that we won’t pass on the “torch of
enthusiasm” for air power that we inherited from our founders and those who grew our Air Force and Foundation—
revered airmen like Spaatz, Vandenberg, Foulois, LeMay, Schriever, and Doolittle. Again, on behalf of the Board and our
staff, thanks for your continued support. We hope to see you at our October events!
Dale W. Meyerrose, Maj Gen, USAF (Ret.)
President and Chairman of the Board
History / SUMMER 2015
The U.S. Air Force
in the Air War
Over Serbia,
History / SUMMER 2015
Daniel L. Haulman
History / SUMMER 2015
(Overleaf) The A–10
Thunderbolt II was a major
aircraft in the air war over
Serbia. (All photos USAF.)
he last major United States military
operation of the twentieth century was
noteworthy in a number of ways. It
marked the first time NATO took part in combat
operations against a sovereign nation. It was the last
time manned aircraft shot down manned enemy aircraft. The operation resulted in no American casualties. It ended one of the worst instances of genocide
in a century of genocide. Most importantly, it was the
first air campaign that produced victory without the
use of ground forces. Operation Allied Force, or the
Air War Over Serbia, resulted in victory without any
American or NATO “boots on the ground.”
In early 1998, violence erupted within Kosovo
between Yugoslavian (Serb) forces and the Kosovo
Liberation Army (KLA). As a result, a Contact
Group consisting of the foreign ministers of six
nations, the United States, the Russian Federation,
the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy
met in London during March in an attempt to discuss the growing war within Kosovo. Partly in
response to two statements from the Contact
Group, dated March 9 and 25, the United Nations
Security Council passed Resolution 1160 on March
31. It urged a political settlement of issues in
Kosovo, supported greater autonomy for Kosovo
within Yugoslavia, and banned arms sales and
deliveries to Yugoslavia. The resolution also condemned the use of excess force by Serbian paramilitary police forces against the civilian population,
and denounced any terrorist activity such as that
which the Serbs claimed the KLA performed.1
In May and June, NATO leaders met in Brussels to consider military options. In June, an agreement between Yugoslav President
Milosevic and Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia,
allowed the formation of a Kosovo Diplomatic
Observer Mission, consisting of representatives from
several nations, to report on freedom of movement
and security conditions in the troubled province. The
six-nation Contact Group continued to meet, and
issued statements on June 12 and July 8 on the
increasing deterioration of conditions in Kosovo.
Serbian police security forces in Kosovo, in an effort
to deprive the KLA of their civilian supporters,
began to drive ethnic Albanians from their homes.
The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, acknowledged “excessive and indiscriminate use of force by
Serbian security forces and the Yugoslav Army
which has resulted in numerous civilian casualties
and…the displacement of more than 230,000 persons from their homes.” These words were incorporated into United Nations Security Council Resolution 1199 passed on September 23, that demanded a
ceasefire in Kosovo, dialogue between the warring
parties, the end of action by security forces against
civilians, and the safe return of refugees.2
Concurrently, the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization prepared to exercise air strikes, if necessary, to enforce UNSCR 1160. Dr. Javier Solana,
Secretary-General of NATO, stated on September
24, the day following the passage of UNSCR 1160,
that the alliance was preparing to act. Solana
announced that the North Atlantic Council had just
approved issuing an activation warning that
increased its level of military preparedness and
allowed NATO commanders to begin identifying
forces required for possible air operations.3
On October 12, 1998, Richard Holbrooke,
President Clinton’s special envoy to the Balkans,
flew to Belgrade and warned the Yugoslavian president that if he failed to comply with UN resolutions, he risked NATO air strikes. Lt. Gen. Michael
E. Short, USAF, who commanded NATO air forces
in the theater, accompanied Holbrooke. He spoke
personally with Milosevic, telling him essentially
that the question was not whether NATO planes
would be flying over Kosovo, but whether they
would be taking photographs or dropping bombs.
On October 13, NATO’s North Atlantic Council
authorized activation orders for air strikes. United
States aircraft and aircrews deployed to Europe in
preparations for air strikes against Serbia.4
The threat produced diplomatic results in
Belgrade. On October 15 and 16, Yugoslavian representatives signed agreements to allow a Kosovo verification mission on the ground and an air verification mission. On October 24, the United Nations
Security Council passed Resolution 1203, which
endorsed the verification missions. However,
Milosevic, as president of Yugoslavia, had signed
neither agreement, suggesting that he could later
Daniel L. Haulman is Chief, Organizational Histories, at the Air Force Historical Research Agency,
Maxwell AFB, Alabama. After earning a BA from the University of Southwestern Louisiana and an ME
(Master of Education) from the University of New Orleans, he earned a Ph.D. in history from Auburn
University. Dr. Haulman has authored three books, including Air Force Aerial Victory Credits, The
USAF and Humanitarian Airlift Operations, and One Hundred Years of Flight: USAF Chronology of
Significant Air and Space Events, 1903-2002. He has written several pamphlets, composed sections of
several other USAF publications, and compiled the list of official USAF aerial victories appearing on
the AFHRA’s web page. He wrote the Air Force chapter in supplement IV of A Guide to the Sources of
United States Military History and completed six studies on aspects of recent USAF operations that
have been used by the Air Staff and Air University. He has also written a chapter in Locating Air Force
Base Sites: History’s Legacy, a book about the location of Air Force bases. The author of fifteen published
articles in various journals, Dr. Haulman has presented more than twenty historical papers at historical conferences and taught history courses at Huntingdon College, Auburn University at Montgomery,
and Faulkner University. He co-authored, with Joseph Caver and Jerome Ennels, the book The
Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History, published by New South Books in 2011. This work is
extracted from another book chapter. An abridged version appeared in Air Force Magazine.
History / SUMMER 2015
(Near right) Slobodan
Milošević was the
President of Serbia from
1989-97 and President of
the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia from 1997 to
(Far right) Lt. Gen. Michael
E. Short, USAF, who commanded NATO air forces in
the theater.
claim he had never made such a commitment himself. After intense negotiations between Milosevic
and Dr. Javier Solana, the Secretary General of
NATO, with NATO military leaders present to reinforce the threat of NATO air strikes, Milosevic
reluctantly agreed on October 25, to sign an agreement to remove “excess” Serb police and paramilitary forces from Kosovo and allow the verification
missions to proceed. Gen. Wesley K. Clark, USA,
Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR)
was present at the signing.5
The aerial verification agreement allowed
NATO reconnaissance aircraft such as USAF U–2s
and MQ–1 Predators, to verify the removal of Serb
forces from civilian areas of Kosovo. A week later,
NATO formally approved aerial surveillance missions over Kosovo, Operation Eagle Eye, which
began on October 29, 1998. 6
Operation Eagle Eye aerial verification flights
over Kosovo took place in conjunction with the
ground verification mission or KVM (Kosovo
Verification Mission). The Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) provided
approximately 1,400 personnel for that part of the
verification process. The ground mission arrived in
Kosovo in November under the leadership of
William Walker, a former U.S. ambassador to El
Resolution 1203, in addition to endorsing the
verification missions in Kosovo, also called for the
enforcement of previous UN Security Council
Resolutions 1160 and 1199. The United Nations and
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization spoke with
one voice on the need for Yugoslavia to reduce its
military presence in Kosovo, to allow the return of
refugees, and to eventually agree to greater autonomy for Kosovo and its ethnic Albanian majority. It
also called “for prompt and complete investigation,
including international supervision and participa-
History / SUMMER 2015
tion, of all atrocities committed against civilians
and full cooperation with the International
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, including compliance with its orders, requests for information and
investigations…”8. As a result of the resolution, an
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia convened, with Louise Arbour appointed
as chief prosecutor.9
The crisis intensified in November and
December, 1998. Milosevic forbade the entrance of
United Nations war crimes investigators to determine whether ethnic cleansing and genocide had
occurred in Kosovo. On November 17, the UN
passed Security Resolution 1207, condemning
Yugoslavia for failing to arrest and transfer three
individuals indicted by the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.10
The final crisis began in January 1999. On
January 8 and 10, the KLA ambushed and killed
four Serbian policemen near Stimlje, Kosovo. On
January 15, fighting erupted around the village of
Racak, as Yugoslavian police forces advanced into
the area. The KLA retreated from the town. Several
people were shot and wounded during the advance.
The Yugoslavian forces cornered about thirty men
and boys in the cellar of a house. Letting the boys
go, they took the twenty-three men elsewhere. The
next day, villagers found their bodies. They had been
shot at close range. The Yugoslavs had apparently
targeted the men of the village, probably in retaliation for the killing of their own police earlier in the
month. International investigators soon determined
that forty-five persons had died in Racak, including
two women and a twelve-year-old boy. Nine KLA
soldiers were also found dead. Walker, head of the
KVA, accused the Yugoslavian authorities of a massacre.11
International response was quick. U.S.
President William “Bill” Clinton, responding quickly
19, THE
to Walker’s report, condemned the killing of the
civilians in Kosovo. Yugoslavian authorities refused
to allow Arbour to investigate the killings at Racak,
and demanded that Walker, head of the KVM, leave
the country.12 On January 19, the United Nations
Security Council denounced the Racak massacre
and Serbia’s refusal to allow a UN investigation. At
the same time, General Clark met in Belgrade with
President Milosevic. Clark demanded that
Milosevic pull his security forces out of Kosovo or
face air strikes. Meanwhile, Yugoslavian Army and
Serbian police units attacked ethnic Albanian villages around Racak for the third day. On January
30, NATO authorized its Secretary General, Solana,
to launch air strikes on Serbia.13
Milosevic reacted to the pressure by agreeing to
peace talks at Rambouillet, France, between representatives of Yugoslavia, the Kosovo Liberation
Army, and NATO. The talks began on February 7.
News reports that a bomb had exploded in downtown Pristina, capital of Kosovo, killing three ethnic
Albanian civilians, soured the opening of negotiations. To stop the atrocities, NATO demanded that
its troops be allowed to enter Kosovo. During
February, Serbia’s President Milan Milutinovic and
Yugoslavia’s foreign minister Zivadin Jovanovic
echoed Milosevic’s opposition to the possible deployment of foreign troops into Serbia. At the same time,
Kosovar Albanians demanded a referendum on
independence and rejected calls to disarm.14
The U.S. Air Force began extensive deployment
of forces to the theater in preparation for possible
war as early as February 19, the day before the original deadline set for an agreement at Rambouillet.
The Contact Group extended the deadline to
February 23, the day the Kosovar Albanian delegation agreed to a NATO peace plan. The Kosovo
Liberation Army officially agreed to the terms on
March 8. However, Yugoslavia refused to agree to
the deployment of foreign troops in Kosovo; Serbs
within the province continued to force ethnic
Albanians from their homes there; and the
Yugoslavian army massed along the border of
Kosovo in anticipation of a greater conflict.15
On March 12, while prospects for war over
Kosovo escalated, Poland, the Czech Republic, and
Hungary joined NATO as full members of the
alliance. This demonstrated not only the increasing
isolation of Yugoslavia internationally, but also the
continuing decline of Russian influence in central
and eastern Europe. However, Russia still supported Serbia.16
To prevent another conflict in the Balkans similar to the 1995 war in Bosnia, NATO and the parties within Kosovo met again in Paris on March 15,
to follow up the Rambouillet talks. These discussions produced little success. On March 18, the
Kosovar Albanian delegation to the Paris talks
signed the proposed peace agreement, which would
have granted them autonomy within Serbia but not
full independence. However, the Yugoslavian government still refused to allow foreign troops into
Kosovo, and the talks ended without a signature
from the Serbian delegation.17
Yugoslavia’s prolonged recalcitrance increased
the likelihood of war, especially after a Finnish
forensic investigation led by Helena Ranta on
March 16, revealed that the more than forty ethnic
Albanians killed by Serbs in Racak in January were
unarmed civilians. Undeterred, the Serbs launched
a new offensive in Kosovo called Operation
Horseshoe on March 20, forcing thousands of ethnic
Albanians from their homes northwest of Pristina
in an attempt to deprive the KLA of popular support. The next day, Yugoslavian special forces killed
ten ethnic Albanians in Srbica and shelled seven
nearby villages. Following reports of shooting and
looting by Yugoslavian security and paramilitary
forces, and fearful of being captured as hostages, as
happened to international peacekeepers in BosniaHerzegovina in 1995, international observers in the
Kosovo Verification Mission evacuated from Kosovo
to Macedonia. On March 24, the air verification mission, Operation Eagle Eye, also ended. The path was
now clear for NATO air operations, if necessary. 18
While the verification missions ended,
Holbrooke returned to Belgrade for last-minute
talks with Milosevic, but reported no change in the
Serb leader’s position. On March 22, NATO authorized Secretary General Solana to launch air strikes
against Serbia. Solano then directed General Clark
to initiate air operations against Yugoslavia. On
March 23, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution, sponsored by Senator Joseph Biden Jr., authorizing
President Clinton to conduct military air operations
and missile strikes against Yugoslavia. The House
of Representatives failed to pass the resolution, but
by the War Powers Resolution of 1973, the
History / SUMMER 2015
1999, AND
President was authorized to use U.S. military forces
for up to sixty days without Congressional approval.
The stage was set for war over Kosovo.19
Operation Allied Force began March 24, 1999,
and marked the first time NATO went to war
against a sovereign country in the 50-year history of
the alliance. Exclusively an air campaign, Allied
Force involved the militaries of several NATO countries, but the United States provided the leadership
and the majority of the forces. NATO launched the
war on Serbia not for the national interest of any of
its members, but to enforce United Nations resolutions and to stop an “ethnic cleansing” campaign in
Kosovo that included forced evictions. However, the
United Nations Security Council never directly
sanctioned NATO’s military action, partly because
of the opposition of Russia, a veto-carrying member.
The United States called its portion of Allied Force
Operation Noble Anvil.20
The two operations, one within the other, pursued common goals. General Clark served as NATO
commander for Allied Force, also called the Air War
Over Serbia. The campaign’s focus on air power
magnified the significance of Clark’s Combined
Force Air Component Commander (CFACC),
General Short, who also served as commander of
the Sixteenth Air Force and Allied Air Forces
Southern Europe (AIRSOUTH). Short directed the
air campaign from the NATO Combined Air
Operations Center (CAOC) at Vicenza, Italy,
although most of the combat aircraft were based
elsewhere. Sixteenth Air Force had been the first to
employ the expeditionary wing concept, which
rotated preselected USAF organizations for more
predictable deployments overseas. Allied Force’s
largest footprint was in Italy. On February 19, 1999,
the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE)
activated the 16th Air and Space Expeditionary
Task Force-Noble Eagle, with headquarters at
Aviano, not far from Venice, to support the operation. At the same time, USAFE also activated the
16th and 31st Air Expeditionary Wings at Aviano,
and the 100th Air Expeditionary Wing at RAF
Mildenhall, in the United Kingdom. As the war
intensified, the Air Force committed more organizations to the effort. The United States Navy deployed
ships armed with Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise
Missiles (TLAMs) to the Adriatic Sea, just off the
western coast of Yugoslavia.21
The United States and its NATO allies
employed a broad spectrum of weapons systems for
the operation. On the opening night of Allied Force,
March 24, 1999, the NATO CAOC managed 214
strike aircraft. They came not only from Aviano Air
Base in Italy, on the Adriatic Sea, but also from as
far away as Germany, the United Kingdom, and the
United States. American aircraft comprised more
than half of the strike aircraft on the first day. They
included three types of strategic bombers, used to
destroy elements of Yugoslavia’s integrated air
defense system and key military command and control targets. B–52s from the 2d Expeditionary Bomb
Group-NOBLE ANVIL, based at RAF Fairford, and
refueled by KC-135s stationed at the same base,
History / SUMMER 2015
launched precision cruise missiles to open the campaign. The bombers had deployed to England from
the 2d and 5th Bomb Wings based in the United
States. The tankers had deployed to England from
the 366th Wing. B-1s that had deployed to RAF
Fairford from the 28th Bomb Wing, also took part in
the opening of the campaign. B–2 bombers entered
combat for the first time, flying long round-trip missions from Whiteman AFB in Missouri to
Yugoslavia and back, a 29-hour round trip, with
numerous aerial refuelings. The B–2s belonged to
the 509th Bombardment Wing, and they carried the
new Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) whose
precision satellite guidance enabled it to hit variable targets, regardless of weather or time of day.
The U.S. Navy also took part in the initial air
strikes, using ship-launched Tomahawk missiles to
hit similar targets. While NATO aircraft from other
countries played important roles in the campaign,
NATO depended more on the United States than
any other country for night operations, precisionguided munitions, identification of aircraft beyond
visual range, airborne command and control, and
intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance
USAF fighter aircraft, based at Aviano Air Base
in Italy, also assumed prominent roles in the conflict. Among them were F–15s to counter the
MiG–29s the enemy launched against the attacking
aircraft. On the first night, March 24, 1999, two
USAF F–15C pilots of the 493d Expeditionary
Fighter Squadron each shot down one MiG–29,
using AIM–120 missiles. These missiles had their
own homing radar, allowing pilots to “launch and
leave” instead of hanging around to provide radar
guidance to the missiles. AIM–120s also had longer
range than infrared-guided missiles, allowing the
downing of enemy aircraft from beyond visual
range. A Dutch F–16 pilot also shot down a MiG–29
that night. On the third night of Allied Force, an
F–15C pilot of the 493d Expeditionary Fighter
Squadron shot down two MIG–29s in aerial combat
over Yugoslavia, using AIM–120 missiles. Thus, in
the first three days of the conflict, NATO pilots shot
down five of the best Yugoslavian fighters, with no
friendly aircraft losses.23
Operation Allied Force over Serbia in 1999, had
similarities and differences with Operation Desert
Storm, over Iraq, eight years earlier. In both operations, the air component commander wanted to
begin with the destruction of enemy command and
control and communication structures in the enemy
capital and deprive the enemy of his ability to
counter American airpower. General Short wanted
to hit Belgrade as hard as Baghdad had been hit in
1991. However, General Clark at first limited
Short’s targets in the enemy’s largest city, because
he wanted to limit civilian casualties. He also
wanted American air power to hit the Serbian tanks
in Kosovo that were threatening Albanian civilians
there. As a result, Operation Allied Force at first
focused more on small military targets on the
ground, which were much more difficult to hit than
strategic targets such as electrical power plants,
and which required the aircraft to fly lower, making
them more vulnerable to enemy antiaircraft
Milosevic surprised NATO and United States
military leaders by not coming to terms after the
first three nights of bombing, March 24 to 26. Some
of those leaders suspected that Milosevic, after a
gesture of defiance to placate Serbian extremists
supporting him, would capitulate early. They were
wrong. Despite the temptation to use radar to guide
their extensive air defense network’s arsenal of
surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), the Serbs largely
turned off the radar, knowing that NATO fighters
with high-speed, anti-radiation missiles (HARMs)
could zero in on them. As a result, throughout the
conflict, the SAMs remained a threat. So also did
anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and shoulder-launched
infrared-guided missiles, which persuaded NATO
to keep its aircraft flying at an altitude of at least
15,000 feet. The higher altitude missions degraded
the accuracy of air strikes, because small targets
such as tanks could not be seen from high altitude.25
Besides F–16s from such organizations as the
31st Air Expeditionary Wing based at Aviano Air
Base, a host of other USAF aircraft types participated in Operation Allied Force. Among them were
A–10 aircraft, more effective than faster lesserarmored aircraft against ground forces, and as a
result, General Short made plans to deploy more
A–10s to the theater. Additionally, EC–130s served
as Airborne Battlefield Command and Control
Center (ABCCC) aircraft. Unmanned and unarmed
RQ–1 Predator reconnaissance and surveillance
aircraft, based at Tazsar, Hungary, assisted the
A–10 pilots in locating and destroying small enemy
targets such as enemy artillery pieces. The Predator
allowed real time intelligence to enable air strikes
to be more effective against moving targets such as
the Yugoslavian Third Army in Kosovo.26 The C–17
also took part in the Air War over Serbia. Having
completed its testing less than four years earlier, it
was the only USAF transport capable of carrying
outsize cargo into certain airfields, such as Tuzla Air
Base in Bosnia.27
By the end of March, NATO aircraft and missile strikes had hit more than fifty targets in
Yugoslavia. With portions of the Yugoslavian air
defense system crippled, NATO launched air strikes
in daylight for the first time. Russia, with close
political ties to Serbia, requested that the United
Nations halt the NATO airstrikes, but the Security
Council voted down the resolution by an overwhelming 12 to 3 vote. 28
The NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia
proceeded remarkably well, in terms of attrition,
until March 27, the fourth night of the operation,
when Serbian SA-3 surface to air missiles took
down a USAF F–117 Nighthawk. General Short
had anticipated some air losses, but not this particular aircraft type, a stealth fighter famous for its
ability to avoid significant radar detection and its
virtual invisibility at night. The Serbs fired two
SAMs and only one struck its target. SAM fire had
succeeded despite the enemy’s limited use of radar
to guide it. Analysts later speculated how the Serbs
had been able to down the venerable F-117: it had
flown a somewhat predictable path; it could have
been detected when it became more visible on radar
as it opened its weapons-bay doors; the aircraft
might have become more observable when it
banked, increasing its radar cross section momentarily; the RC–135 Rivet Joint aircraft might have
failed to locate a key SA-3 battery; the F–16CJs carrying HARMs had left the area, temporarily removing the threat to enemy radar equipment; the
EA–6B aircraft might not have been in the best
position to jam enemy radar.29
In light of the shootdown, there was some positive news. A USAF A–10 pilot from the 81st
Expeditionary Fighter Squadron located the
downed pilot and vectored a helicopter rescue team
to save him within a few hours of his ejection. The
effort involved the cooperative efforts of A–10,
MC–130, MH–53, and MH–60 pilots and crews.
F–16 pilots covering the mission, sustained by
KC–135 tankers, remained airborne for more than
nine hours. The A–10 pilot, the pilot of the lead
MH–53, and the MH–60 pilot who carried out the
rescue all earned the Silver Star that day. Notably,
this incident demonstrated the progress made since
the 1995 downing of Captain Scott O’Grady over
Bosnia, who had to evade enemy forces for six days
before he was rescued.30
Despite extensive NATO air strikes over
Kosovo and the rest of Serbia, the Yugoslavian “ethnic cleansing” campaign intensified at the end of
March. Large columns of refugees migrated out of
the besieged province into Albania, Macedonia, and
Montenegro, and the Serbian forces burned the
homes of the refugees to discourage them from
returning. In the course of five days, some 50,000
Kosovar civilians fled their homes.31
By the end of March, a week into the air campaign, Milosevic showed no signs of capitulating,
and actually intensified his ground campaign in
Kosovo, forcing ever increasing numbers of
refugees to flee to neighboring states. Between
March 24 and 31, more than 100,000 people fled
Kosovo to Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro. As
a result of Milosevic’s intransigence, NATO members expanded the target list to include sites in the
central part of the Serbian capital, and on March
31, NATO aircraft struck the headquarters of the
Yugoslavian Army’s Special Unit Corps in downtown Belgrade.32
The expanding NATO target list grew to
include not only more sites in Belgrade but also
Serbian fielded forces in Kosovo. On March 30,
General Short launched the Combined Air
Interdiction of Fielded Forces (CAIFF), a new stage
of the air campaign designed specifically to cripple
or destroy Milosevic’s ground troops in Kosovo, but
it was initially limited to a ten-mile penetration of
the province. Clouds and bad weather challenged
the early missions, hindering NATO’s ability to
destroy its relatively small targets effectively and
mount a steadily increasing pressure on the enemy.
History / SUMMER 2015
A C–5 Galaxy transport aircraft prepares to launch
from Aviano Air Base, Italy.
The C–5 was one of the
many aircraft at Aviano
supporting NATO's
Operation Allied Force.
A–10s served well for combat search and rescue, but
after their first successful attack against a Serbian
truck park on April 6, the armored attack aircraft
proved especially useful against enemy ground
forces in Kosovo.33
On April 1, Yugoslavian forces captured three
U.S. soldiers on patrol near the border of Kosovo
and Macedonia and sought to use the hostages as
leverage to restrict the air campaign, as Serbs had
done with United Nations personnel in Bosnia in
1995. This time the tactic did not work. Generals
Clark and Short did not want to reward hostagetaking, and European allies did not pressure them
to do so because this time, the hostages were Americans. The campaign continued without diminution.34
Since March 1998, more than a half million
people had been displaced from their homes in
Kosovo, a fifth of them in the last week of March
1999. Without reducing the air campaign, NATO
and the United States inaugurated an additional
operation called Sustain Hope to airlift humanitarian supplies to the refugees in Albania. The United
States called its part of the new operation Shining
Hope. On April 4, a USAF C–17 airlifted relief supplies from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, to
Tirana, Albania. The 86th Contingency Response
Group deployed to Tirana, where they increased the
airfield capacity to allow more than 400 daily takeoffs and landings where earlier there had been only
ten. For Joint Task Force Shining Hope, the USAF
provided 930 airmen, two-thirds of the total personnel. In the first month of Operation Sustain Hope,
allied transports that included USAF C–5s, C–17s,
and C–130s airlifted more than 3,000 tons of food,
medicine, tents, supplies, cots, blankets, sleeping
bags, and other relief cargo for refugees in camps
located outside of Kosovo. Major General William S.
Hinton, Jr., USAF, commanded the operation. On
April 10, NATO approved Operation Allied Harbor,
an additional humanitarian effort to aid refugees
from Kosovo.35
Meanwhile, NATO airstrikes on Belgrade continued, and were not limited to aircraft. On April 3,
NATO missiles struck central Belgrade for the first
time, destroying the Yugoslavian and Serbian interior ministries. Some of these missiles were
History / SUMMER 2015
Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs), launched
from U.S. Navy ships in the Adriatic. On the same
day, B–1s deployed from the United States to RAF
Fairford, where they were equipped with conventional air-launched cruise missiles (CALCMs) for
additional attacks on Belgrade. On April 8, a NATO
cruise missile destroyed the main telecommunications building in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo,
which had been used to help coordinate Serbian
ground operations in the province.36
Strategic debates accompanied tactical success.
General Clark and his air component commander,
General Short, disagreed on the operation’s most
important target set. General Clark insisted that
the “jewel in the crown” was the Yugoslavia’s tanks
and troops in Kosovo. But General Short “never felt
that the Third Army in Kosovo was a center of gravity.”37 He preferred to strike key fixed electrical,
communication, transportation, and industrial
structures in Belgrade than tanks, vehicle-drawn
artillery pieces, and troops hidden in the forests of
Kosovo. Spotting small moving targets under trees
and behind hills was especially difficult for USAF
and other NATO pilots who flew at altitudes high
enough to erase the effectiveness of shoulderlaunched missiles and AAA. Clark continued to
focus on the destruction of fielded military forces in
Kosovo, using F–16s, F–15s, and A–10s, but he
allowed Short to use his B–2s and F–117s, along
with the Navy’s TLAMs, to strike Belgrade. Clark
was caught between two extremes: U.S. Air Force
officers who wanted to attack more targets in the
Yugoslavian capital, and certain NATO allies in
Europe who wanted to severely limit the targets
struck there. General Clark later wrote, “no single
target or set of targets was more important than
NATO cohesion.”38
While General Clark overruled General Short
by insisting the air forces strike the Yugoslavian
Third Army in Kosovo, and not focus on targets in
Belgrade, the Pentagon did not permit him to add a
ground campaign that would concentrate Serb
fielded forces in Kosovo, making them more vulnerable to NATO air strikes. This concept included
using U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters in Task
Force Hawk. Although the helicopter task force
existed, NATO leaders would not authorize a
ground campaign, and the U.S. Secretary of Defense
would not allow the use of the helicopters over
Kosovo, where they would be more vulnerable than
the fighters to ground fire. As a result, Clark kept
his operation focused on an air campaign that
would not include attack helicopters except as a possible future threat. General Clark listed some of the
likely problems planning or launching a major
ground campaign would engender: a longer war;
more casualties; increased cost; unpredictable consequences; lack of detailed planning; perceived
admission that the air campaign failed; limited personnel; and difficulty maintaining public support.39
Like other generals in the U.S. Army, General
Clark doubted that an air campaign could ever succeed without an accompanying ground campaign.
He remembered that the Soviet Union, despite air
supremacy, had failed to keep Afghanistan under
control during its failed long-term occupation in the
1980s. He recalled that the United States and its
coalition partners forced Iraqi troops out of Kuwait
only after a weeks-long air campaign was capped
by a short but intense Allied invasion involving
“boots on the ground.” He knew that NATO air
power worked in 1995 against the Bosnian Serbs
partly because it had been accompanied by a
Croatian ground offensive. There was no such
offensive in Kosovo. The closest thing to it was the
resistance of the Kosovo Liberation Army within
Kosovo itself.40
Three weeks into Allied Force, Serbian troops
remained deeply entrenched in Kosovo, and
Milosevic showed no sign of relenting. To apply
more pressure, General Clark called for a significant increase in the number of aircraft devoted to
the operation. When the campaign opened on
March 24, only 430 NATO aircraft were committed
to the war. Within a few weeks, that number more
than doubled.41
Air raids against Serbian ground forces in
Kosovo intensified during April. On the 14th, the
Air Force assigned five new air expeditionary wings,
the 48th, 52nd, 60th, 86th, and 92nd, to join the
three (the 16th, 31st, and 100th) that already
served the 16th Air and Space Expeditionary Task
Force-Noble Anvil. The aircraft types available to
these eight wings, deployed from stateside bases
with their crews, included F–16, F–15, and F–117
fighters, A–10s attack airplanes, and E—8s and
EC–130s for communications. A–10 pilots, support
personnel, and aircraft deployed from the 74th
Fighter Squadron at Pope AFB, North Carolina, to
serve with the 81st Expeditionary Fighter
Squadron of the 40th Expeditionary Operations
Group. On April 11, the 81st moved from Aviano Air
Base, in northern Italy, to Gioia del Colle in extreme
southern Italy, where it could more effectively to
strike targets in Kosovo. At the same time,
Macedonia, a country that had itself declared independence from Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia in
1991, allowed NATO to use its air space for flights
against Serbian forces. NATO attack aircraft could
now enter Serbia and attack its targets in Kosovo
more easily.42
The first Allied Force NATO air raid that
caused significant civilian casualties occurred on
April 12, when an F–15 dropped precision-guided
munitions to destroy a railroad bridge near
Lekovac. Unfortunately a passenger train was
crossing at the time, and about thirty civilians lost
their lives.43
When fighters attacked ground targets among
the trees and villages of Kosovo, they did not always
hit them. Flying at high altitudes to reduce the
chances of being hit by ground fire, pilots sometimes
misidentified moving objects on the surface. In one
notable case on April 14, NATO fighters that
included an F–16 and a French Jaguar accidentally
hit two refugee convoys because the pilots confused
the long column of tractors and other vehicles as
enemy tanks. General Short subsequently decided
to allow certain aircraft to fly in at lower altitudes
for target identification.44
While air raids on fielded Serbian forces in
Kosovo continued, NATO gradually shifted more of
its weight to the bombardment of Belgrade’s leadership and command, control, and communication
systems . On April 21, cruise missiles struck radio
and television stations in the Serbian capital, as
well as the political offices of Milosevic, crippling his
ability to control and disseminate propaganda.
NATO later used the 4,700-pound GBU “bunkerbusting” bomb to damage Milosevic’s huge national
command center, some of which was buried 100 feet
below the ground.45
During April, General Clark prepared his
attack helicopters for possible use against Serbian
fielded forces in Kosovo. He deployed Task Force
Hawk, which included twenty-four U.S. Army
Apaches, from Germany to Albania. In an unusual
move, Air Mobility Command temporarily relinquished operational control of its deployed C–17s in
the theater to the United States Air Forces in
Europe. The Air Force flew 737 C–17 missions to
deliver twenty-four Army helicopters and their
associated resources, including 7,745 passengers
and 22,937 short tons of cargo. As a result, Task
Force Hawk tied up crucial air space over southern
Europe needed for Operations Noble Anvil and
Shining Hope46
As NATO’s air campaign continued, international pressure against Milosevic to cease his
Kosovo ground offensive intensified. On April 21,
the European Union stopped delivery of petroleum
product deliveries to Yugoslavia. On the same day,
NATO missiles struck the headquarters of
Milosevic’s Serbian Socialist Party and his private
residence in Belgrade, as well as radio and television stations in the enemy capital. On April 23, at a
NATO summit meeting in Washington, D.C., NATO
revised its objectives and on May 1, the North
Atlantic Council approved an expanded the target
list which included more infrastructure facilities.
Further, Turkey and Hungary approved the basing
of NATO strike aircraft on their territories to allow
them to attack targets in Serbia around the clock.
Eventually NATO aircraft flew combat missions
from bases in fifteen countries.47
By May, the air campaign against Serbia had
become a long-term commitment, and the Air Force
mobilized Air Force Reserve Command units to support Operation Allied Force, eventually calling six
tanker wings and one rescue wing to active duty.
USAF aircraft devoted to the Noble Anvil campaign
more than doubled, from 203 to 514 (the total number of NATO aircraft was higher, but the USAF continued to furnish a majority of the almost 1,000
NATO airplanes eventually devoted to Allied
Force). USAF aircraft eventually flew 150 strike
sorties per day. Targets ultimately included refineries, communication lines, electrical power grids, and
dual-use communication structures; however
NATO maintained strict control over which targets
could be hit and which were off limits. General
Short could generate 1,000 strike sorties a day by
History / SUMMER 2015
An F–16 Fighting Falcon
from Shaw Air Force Base,
S.C., takes off from Aviano.
The F–16 is one of more
than 170 aircraft deployed
to Italy in support of
NATO's Operation Allied
early May and could destroy targets more quickly
than they could be approved by the leaders of the
various nations in the alliance. NATO approval of
certain targets sometimes took as long as two
weeks, and there were two air tasking orders, one
for NATO, and one for the U.S. only, which hindered
the effectiveness of the operation.48
The increased pressure began to have an effect
on the Serbian leader. Milosevic agreed on May 1, to
release the three U.S. soldiers his forces had captured near Kosovo’s border with Macedonia a
month earlier. By releasing the hostages to U.S. civil
rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, Milosevic
likely sought some political advantage, but probably
realized that holding the hostages would not diminish the intensifying air campaign.49
Serbian surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft
artillery failed to down a single NATO aircraft during the entire month of April, but on the night of
May 2, 1999, Serbian forces celebrated their shooting down of a second USAF airplane by an SA-3
missile. This time it was an F–16CG piloted by Lt.
Col. David Goldfein (call sign HAMMER 34), commander of the 555th Fighter Squadron, who had
just finished an air strike against Serbian surfaceto-air missile sites near Novi Sad. Like the F–117
pilot shot down earlier, Goldfein did not stay in
enemy territory very long. Within hours, an MH–60
Pave Hawk helicopter crew rescued him. Lt. Col.
Steve Laushine, who had commanded the rescue of
the F–117 pilot in March, also led this mission, flying in one of two MH–53 Pave Low helicopters that
escorted the MH–60. Four A–10s of the 40th
Expeditionary Operations Group covered the three
The Serbs had little time to celebrate. The next
day, May 3, USAF F–117s dropped BLU-114 submunitions on five transformer yards of Belgrade’s
History / SUMMER 2015
electrical power grid, cutting off electricity to seventy percent of Yugoslavia and threatening communications with headquarters of the Yugoslav 3rd
Army in Kosovo. Subsequent air strikes, using the
same weapon, took out most of the electrical power
again in later days, preventing its permanent
restoration. Air strikes also destroyed a sizable
vehicle and munitions factory in the enemy capital,
significantly reducing Serbia’s industrial production and depriving thousands of workers of employment.51
Unlike ground fire, Serbian aircraft failed to
down a single NATO aircraft during the campaign.
In fact, the opposite happened. On May 4, F–16CG
pilot Lieutenant Colonel Michael H. Geczy of the
78th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron shot down
another Yugoslavian MIG–29 over Kosovo, the fifth
and final USAF aerial victory of Operation Allied
Force, and the sixth such victory by NATO pilots.
Like the other four aerial victories of USAF pilots
over MIG–29s in 1999, the AIM-120 missile proved
it could hit an enemy aircraft from beyond visual
range, despite the fact that this incident occurred
during daylight hours. At first, Geczy could see the
enemy aircraft only on radar, but he also saw the
fireball that resulted from his missile’s impact.52
Although much of the air campaign focused on
enemy ground troops and their vehicles in Kosovo,
General Short continued air strikes on Belgrade.
Mistargeting curtailed the latter part of Allied
Force on May 7, when a B–2 dropped a Joint Direct
Attack Munition (JDAM) on the Chinese Embassy
in the Yugoslavian capital, killing three and
wounding twenty persons. President Clinton called
the attack a “tragic mistake.” Air campaign planners using faulty maps had identified the building
as the Federal Directorate for Supply and
Procurement. The resultant political furor forced
An A–10 rolls down the
pavement in Yugoslavia
during Operation Allied
General Clark to draw a five-mile-radius circle in
central Belgrade within which NATO airplanes
were forbidden to strike for almost two weeks. The
accident and subsequent bombing restrictions gave
Milosevic a break and more time to resist capitulation.53
As an almost inevitable result of its intensified
bombing campaign over Serbia, NATO munitions
sometimes struck civilians accidentally. For example, on May 14, bombs struck Korisa, a village in
southern Kosovo, killing seventy-nine people and
wounding fifty-eight. A few days later, a NATO
bomb killed inmates in a jail in the town of Istok
near Pristina in Kosovo. NATO believed the facility
was no longer being used as a prison but as an
enemy command center. Later, on May 22, NATO
admitted to have accidentally bombed the Kosare
area after Kosovo Liberation Army forces took it,
killing seven and injuring fifteen to twenty-five
KLA soldiers. One of the KLA leaders, Hashim
Thaqi, called the bombing a technical mistake, since
Serbian forces had been in control of the area, and
urged continued and even more intense NATO
On May 12, Joint Task Force Shining Hope, the
humanitarian counterpart of Operation Allied
Force, opened Camp Hope, the first of three camps
for assisting Kosovar Albanian refugees. The goal of
the simultaneous operations was the same: to save
ethnic Albanians threatened with the loss of their
lives or homes as a result of a Serbian military
offensive in Kosovo.55
The NATO air campaign against Serbia continued throughout May, showing no signs of diminishing or ending without a reversal of Yugoslavian policy. In fact, the United States Air Forces in Europe
activated two additional air expeditionary wings in
Turkey during the month, bringing the wing total to
ten.56 Diplomatic pressure on Milosevic also intensified. On May 22, the United Nations International
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
indicted Milosevic and four other Serbian leaders
for crimes against humanity, which threatened the
popularity of their cause. The next day, NATO
resumed bombing the Yugoslavian electricity grid,
depriving much of the country of power. On May 21,
the 104th Expeditionary Operations Group began
flying A–10 missions from Trapani Air Base in
Sicily, just two days after its arrival. The increasing
A–10 attacks became more effective than earlier
ones because a ground offensive by the Kosovo
Liberation Army, launched on May 25, forced the
Serb forces to mass, making them more vulnerable
to air attack. By the end of the month, NATO strike
aircraft flew more than 250 sorties per day.
Unfortunately, the KLA offensive (Operation
Arrow) did not last long and bogged down after only
three days.57
At the same time, air attacks on infrastructure
in Belgrade intensified. On May 24, precisionguided weapons destroyed much of the Serbian capital’s electrical power grid, even more effectively
than the May 3 attacks. Without electricity, Serbian
military leaders were hard-pressed to maintain
communications with their forces in Kosovo. The
absence of electrical power likely increased popular
pressure against Milosevic, partly by crippling his
telecommunications propaganda machine and ruining the computer connections of the banking industry. More significantly for the NATO air warriors,
the attacks on the Belgrade electrical grid largely
paralyzed what remained of the Serbian air defense
A combination of military and diplomatic pressure ultimately succeeded in convincing Milosevic
to accept a peace deal. On June 2, 1999, Viktor
Chernomyrdin, representing Russia, and Finland’s
President Martti Ahtisaari, representing the
European Union, flew to Belgrade to pressure the
Serbian leader into an agreement. The next day
Milosevic finally approved talks between senior
Yugoslavian and NATO officers, which began on
June 5.59
When the talks temporarily collapsed on June
7, General Clark disagreed with critics who
charged that Allied bombing discouraged negotiations. In fact, he believed that the continued bombing increased the likelihood of restarting negotiations. With NATO authorization, he approved air
strikes on Batanjica airfield and an oil refinery at
Novi Sad. On June 7, two B–52s and one B–1
dropped eighty-six MK 82 munitions and cluster
bombs on Serbian troops in Kosovo, effectively
ending the Serbian offensive against the KLA. On
June 9, Serbia agreed to all NATO terms, including immediate withdrawal from Kosovo. The next
day, the withdrawal began. Milosevic also agreed
to allow multinational peacekeeping forces into
Kosovo and permitted the return of refugees. His
only consolation was that Kosovo would remain
part of Serbia and not all the peacekeepers would
History / SUMMER 2015
be from NATO (Russian forces would also take
On June 10, 1999, after seventy-eight days of
bombing, NATO suspended air strikes. However,
General Clark remained vigilant, and remained
ready to resume them if the Serbs had shown any
signs of noncompliance. Concurrently, the UN
Security Council passed Resolution 1244. The vote
was 14-0, with China abstaining. The resolution
called for an end of violence and repression in
Kosovo; return of refugees; withdrawal of all
Yugoslav military, police, and paramilitary forces
from the province; and the deployment of an international peacekeeping force of some 50,000 troops,
which were almost identical to the NATO conditions. Milosevic more willing allowed international
peacekeeping forces in Serbia’s Kosovo province if
under the auspices of the UN rather than NATO,
and was more cooperative when some of the troops
were Russian. Kosovo came under temporary international civilian control, but remained, at least temporarily, part of Serbia.61
On June 11, NATO inaugurated Joint
Guardian, a peacekeeping operation in Kosovo.
The United States portion of the new operation
was called Operation Decisive Guardian. Three
days later, the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed Gen.
Wesley Clark to suspend construction of two
refugee camps in Albania because the Kosovars
could now return to their homes within Serbia. By
June 20, Milosevic and the Serbs had demonstrated compliance with NATO and UN demands,
and Operation Allied Force formally ended.
Operation Sustain Hope (Shining Hope) concluded
on July 1. During that operation, USAF C–17s and
C–130s flew 1176 airlift missions to deliver well
over 3,000 tons of humanitarian cargo, including
some 4,000 tents, 476,000 rations, and 5,000 blankets.62
The air campaign had intensified tremendously
between March 24 and June 20. The number of air
expeditionary wings committed to Operation Noble
Anvil, the U.S. portion of Allied Force, had expanded
from three to ten. The number of USAF aircraft
deployed had doubled, and by the end of the operation, 13,850 USAF airmen were deployed at twentyfour locations. What was originally conceived to be a
contingency operation to force Milosevic’s compliance with NATO demands morphed into a major
theater war, with more than a third of the USAF
front-line fighters involved.63
During Allied Force in 1999, B–2 bombers
based in the United States flew extremely longrange missions to destroy key facilities in Serbia,
using precision-guided munitions. Targets included
airfields, army bases, munitions storage facilities,
engineer depots, arms and heavy equipment factories, petroleum storage facilities, smelters, and an
aviation repair base. One B–2 dropping precisionguided weapons could destroy 16 different targets
on only one sortie, although such a sortie from
Missouri to Serbia and back was an extremely long
one, requiring multiple aerial refuelings on the way.
Still, the cost would be considerably less than the
History / SUMMER 2015
use of sixteen non-recyclable cruise missiles such as
Air Force Special Operations Command personnel and aircraft flew important missions during
Operation Allied Force (Noble Eagle). Contributing
organizations included the 16th Special Operations
Wing, the 352d Special Operations Group, and the
720th Special Tactics Group. Four AC–130s from
the 4th Special Operations Squadron flew 124
armed reconnaissance and battlefield air interdiction sorties from Brindisi. Four MC–130s from the
67th and 9th Special Operations Squadrons flew a
total of seventy-five combat sorties, also from
Brindisi, mostly to refuel nine MH–53 helicopters
from the 20th and 21st Special Operations
Squadrons. These aircraft proved instrumental in
combat search and rescue operations, especially
after the downing of the F–117 and F–16 aircraft
during the operation. Four additional helicopters,
MH–60s from the 55th Special Operations
Squadron, performed additional combat search and
rescue sorties. The special operations helicopters
flew a combined total of 481 sorties out of Brindisi,
Italy. Two additional MC–130s from the 7th Special
Operations Squadron at RAF Mildenhall flew seventy-three combat sorties to drop psychological warfare leaflets over Serbia, having picked them up at
Ramstein. Supplementing the leaflets were radio
broadcasts from a pair of 193rd Special Operations
Wing EC–130s that flew eighty-one combat sorties
from their deployed base at Ramstein.65
During Operation Allied Force, organizations of
the Air Mobility Command flew 2,130 airlift missions. Between mid-February and into July 1999,
they carried more than 32,000 passengers and
52,645 short tons of cargo to from, and within southeastern Europe. During the same operation, Air
Mobility Command tankers refueled a great variety
of aircraft flying to and within the combat zone.
They included fighters, bombers, and transports,
not only from the U.S. Air Force, but also from other
services and allied nations. Between the beginning
of air strikes on March 24 and the conclusion of hostilities on June 9, USAF KC–10s and KC–135s flew
9,000 missions and transferred 348.5 million
pounds of fuel to receiving aircraft. Without aerial
refueling, the non-stop B–2 missions from
Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to Yugoslavia,
and back would have been impossible. By the end of
Operation Allied Force, NATO marshaled 175
tankers based at twelve operating locations.66
Operation Allied Force lasted for seventy-eight
days and involved approximately 38,000 NATO sorties. The Air War Over Serbia proved historic for
many reasons. It was the first major USAF air campaign in which no friendly air crews were killed or
taken prisoner; in fact, there were no NATO casualties. USAF pilots shot down five enemy MIG–29 aircraft, while the Serbs shot down only two manned
USAF aircraft, using surface-to-air missiles, and
both the downed F–117 and F–16 pilots were rescued within hours. Only two of the many USAF
A–10s involved in the operation received any battle
damage. Allied Force saw the first combat use of the
USAF Aircraft and Sorties
214 fighters
18 bombers
175 tankers
43 transports
A B–2 Spirit prepares to
receive fuel from a KC–135
during a mission in the
European Theater supporting NATO Operation Allied
B–2 Spirit “flying wing” stealth bomber. Never
before had the Air Force employed all three of its
strategic bombers of the late twentieth century, the
B–52, B–1, and B–2, in the same combat operation.
C–17s, the Air Force’s latest transport aircraft type,
flew their initial combat missions. For the first
time, USAF Predator unmanned aerial vehicles
helped locate enemy targets for destruction.67
More significantly, air power had achieved
something new. For the first time, NATO went to
war against a sovereign nation and conducted an
air campaign without an accompanying major
ground offensive. When reporters asked General
John Jumper, commander of the United States Air
Forces in Europe, how many tanks NATO aircraft
had destroyed, he responded, “enough.” He and
General Short knew that destroying tanks was not
the primary objective, because the most important
target was the will of Slobodan Milosevic, making
the strikes on Belgrade more decisive. John
Keegan, the military historian, noted that the Air
War Over Serbia in 1999 “proved that a war could
be won by air power alone.” John A. Tirpak, editor
of Air Force Magazine, held a similar opinion. He
noted “For the first time in history, the application
of air power alone forced the wholesale withdrawal
of a military force from a disputed piece of real
estate.” General Wesley K. Clark, overall commander of the operation, addressed the claim in his
book Waging Modern War, admitting that his own
efforts to organize a NATO ground campaign came
to nothing. What remained was air power alone.
Clark himself was amazed that there was not a single Allied combat casualty in what proved to be a
victorious war.68
The United States dominated the NATO operation, not only providing its leadership but also the
majority of its aircraft and the leading technology.
The USAF furnished 29,552 of the 38,004 NATO
sorties, and over 400 aircraft, including:
8,889 sorties
322 sorties
6,959 sorties
11,480 sorties
1,038 ISR sorties
834 special ops sorties
496 UAV sorties
Air Mobility Command aircraft flew 2,130 airlift missions that transported 32,111 passengers
and 52,645 short tons of cargo. USAF KC–135 and
KC–10 tankers flew some 9,000 missions and
transferred more than 348 million pounds of fuel
while airborne. Other USAF aircraft included
RQ–1 Predators, E–3 AWACS, E–8 JOINT STARS,
RC–135s, U–2s, and EC–130s. Among the special
operations and rescue aircraft and crews taking
part were AC–130, MC–130, EC–130, and HC–130
aircraft, as well as MH–53, HH–60, MH–60, and
HH–60 helicopters. Of the 28,018 munitions
expended by NATO, the USAF delivered 21,120.
The U.S. Air Force dropped more than 650 of the
new Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), which
proved to be more accurate than traditional bombs
because GPS satellite signals guided them. In foggy
or cloudy weather, they were even more accurate
than laser-guided or television-guided bombs. But
the percentage of precision-guided weapons in
Allied Force was lower than that for Operation
Deliberate Force four years earlier. The U.S. Air
Force expended a total of 8,618 tons of munitions.
Finally, U.S. intelligence sources provided 99 percent of target nominations for the air campaign,
because NATO depended almost entirely on United
States technology to link intelligence information
with operations.69
The legacy of the successful air campaign continued into the twenty-first century. Hundreds of
thousands of ethnic Albanian Kosovars safely
returned to their homes within Serbia, guarded
from the threat of Serbian military and paramilitary forces, which had withdrawn from the
province, by thousands of international peacekeepers. On October 6, 2000, Milosevic lost reelection in
Serbia, and on February 12, 2002, he faced the
United Nations War Crimes Tribunal at The
Hague, Netherlands, for the first international trial
of a head of state for war crimes. Operation Allied
Force demonstrated that nations determined to use
airpower effectively in the name of humanity could
stop genocide. The operation allowed the people of
Kosovo to regain their sense of peace and security
at home, and contributed eventually to its full independence from Serbia in 2008. More importantly, in
a military sense, Operation Allied Force proved
that an air campaign could succeed in winning a
war without a significant ground campaign, and
with very few casualties. The experience of Allied
Force reinforced the fact that military forces can be
most effective tools for the accomplishment of political foreign policy objectives. In this case, the tool
was air power.70
History / SUMMER 2015
1. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1160,
dated March 31, 1998.
2. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1199,
dated September 23, 1998; HQ USAF, The Air War
Over Serbia Initial Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS
no. 01149318), p. 11; Julie Kim, “Kosovo Conflict
Chronology: September 1998-March 1999,” April 6,
1999, Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report
for Congress; USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xx.
3. Press Statement from Secretary General of NATO
issued on September 24, 1998; Wesley Clark, Waging
Modern War (New York: Public Affairs, 2001), p. 145.
4. USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxii; Julie
Kim, “Kosovo Conflict Chronology: September 1998March 1999,” April 6, 1999, Congressional Research
Service (CRS) Report for Congress; Interview of Lt.
Gen. Michael C. Short, by Public Broadcasting Service
(AFHRA IRIS number 01129172, call number
K570.051-24, 1998-1999), p. 5-7.
5. United Nations Resolution 1203 dated October 24,
1998; Wesley Clark, Waging Modern War (New York:
Public Affairs, 2001), pp. 152 and 157.
6. HQ USAF, The Air War Over Serbia Initial
Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), p.
11; Julie Kim, “Kosovo Conflict Chronology: September
1998-March 1999,” Apr. 6, 1999, Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress.
7. “Operation Eagle Eye,” Allied Joint Force
Command Naples (
8. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1203
dated October 24, 1998.
9. Wesley Clark, Waging Modern War (New York:
Public Affairs, 2001), p. 325.
10. Julie Kim, “Kosovo Conflict Chronology: September 1998-March 1999,” April 6, 1999, Congressional
Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress.
11. Tim Judah, War and Revenge (New Haven, Ct.:
Yale University Press, 2000), p. 193.
12. USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxiii; Julie
Kim, “Kosovo Conflict Chronology: September 1998March 1999,” April 6, 1999, Congressional Research
Service (CRS) Report for Congress ; Col. Christopher
E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air
University Press, 2003), p. xxvii; HQ USAF, The Air
War Over Serbia Initial Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA
IRIS no. 01149318), p. 11.
13. Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil
M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p. xxviii; Julie
Kim, “Kosovo Conflict Chronology: September 1998March 1999,” April 6, 1999, Congressional Research
Service (CRS) Report for Congress.
14. Ibid.; USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxiv;
HQ USAF, The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), p. 11.
15. Julie Kim, “Kosovo Conflict Chronology:
September 1998-March 1999,” April 6, 1999, Congres sional Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress;
USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxiv.
16. USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxv.
17. HQ USAF, The Air War Over Serbia Initial
Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), p.
11; USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxv; Julie Kim,
History / SUMMER 2015
“Kosovo Conflict Chronology: September 1998-March
1999,” April 6, 1999, Congressional Research Service
(CRS) Report for Congress.
18. HQ USAF, The Air War Over Serbia Initial
Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), p.
11; Julie Kim, “Kosovo Conflict Chronology: September
1998-March 1999,” April 6, 1999, Congressional
Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress; Col.
Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p. xxviii;
USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxv; Wesley Clark,
Waging Modern War (New York: Public Affairs, 2001),
p. 173.
19. HQ USAF, The Air War Over Serbia Initial
Report, Sep. 30 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp.
7-8; Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil
M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), xxviii; Julie
Kim, “Kosovo Conflict Chronology: September 1998March 1999,” April 6, 1999, Congressional Research
Service (CRS) Report for Congress; U.S. Congressional
Resolution 21, 106th Congress.
20. HQ USAF, The Air War Over Serbia Initial
Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), p.
12; Julie Kim, “Kosovo Conflict Chronology: September
1998-March 1999,” April 6, 1999, Congressional
Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress; “To War
in the Balkans,” Air Force Magazine, vol. 82, no. 5 (May
1999) p. 16.
21. HQ USAF, The Air War Over Serbia Initial
Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp.
8, 20; Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col.
Phil M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo
(Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), pp.
xiii-xiv, xxix, xxxii, 20-23; Organization Record Card of
the 16 Air and Space Expeditionary Task ForceNOBLE ANVIL, at AFHRA/RSO; William M. Butler,
Fifty Years on NATO’s Southern Flank: A History of
Sixteenth Air Force, 1954-2004 (Aviano AB, Italy:
Sixteenth Air Force Office of History, 2004), p. 11.
22. HQ USAF, The Air War Over Serbia Initial
Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp.
21-22; “To War in the Balkans,” Air Force Magazine,
vol. 82, no. 5 (May 1999), p. 16; Julie Kim, “Kosovo
Conflict Chronology: September 1998-March 1999,”
April 6, 1999, Congressional Research Service (CRS)
Report for Congress; Interview of Lt. Gen. Michael C.
Short, by Public Broadcasting Service (AFHRA IRIS
number 01129172, call number K570.051-24, 19981999), p. 17; Roy Handsel, “Talking Paper on B–2
Participation in Operation Allied Force,” given to
author during visit to Eglin Air Force Base, home of the
678th Armament Systems Squadron.
23. 16th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force,
Special Order GF-024 dated 23 August 1999; Interview
of Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, by Public Broadcasting
Service (AFHRA IRIS number 01129172, call number
K570.051-24, 1998-1999), p. 10; Benjamin S. Lambeth,
The Transformation of American Air Power (Ithaca,
NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), pp. 162-164.
24. Ibid, pp. 185-186.
25. Interview of Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, by Public
Broadcasting Service (AFHRA IRIS number
01129172, call number K570.051-24, 1998-1999), pp. 9-
11, 14; HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial
Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), p.
26. Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil
M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), pp. xvii, xxxii;
Interview of Major James Hoffman by Ninth Air Force
historian Gary Lester, 4 Aug 2005; Susan H. H. Young,
“Gallery of USAF Weapons,” Air Force Magazine, vol.
83, no. 5 (May 2000), pp. 143-144.
27. Ibid., p. 148.
28. Julie Kim, “Kosovo Conflict Chronology: September 1998-March 1999,” April 6, 1999, Congressional
Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress; “To War
in the Balkans,” Air Force Magazine, vol. 82, no. 5 (May
1999), p. 17.
29. Benjamin S. Lambeth, The Transformation of
American Air Power (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 2000), 200-202; HQ USAF The Air War Over
Serbia Initial Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no.
01149318), pp. 23-24.
30. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp. 23-24;
Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p. xxix; “To War
in the Balkans,” Air Force Magazine, vol. 82, no. 5 (May
1999), p. 17; Interview of Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, by
Public Broadcasting Service (AFHRA IRIS number
01129172, call number K570.051-24, 1998-1999), p. 22;
Dale Zelko e-mail messages to Daniel Haulman, Sep.
17 and Oct. 5, 2009; Darrel Whitcomb, “The Night They
Saved Vega 31,” Air Force Magazine, vol. 89, no. 12
(December 2006); Rudi Williams, “Daring Rescues
Snatch Pilots from Jaws of Enemy,” Defense Link
News Article dated Feb. 17, 2000; “Rev. Jesse L.
Jackson: Wins Freedom for American POWs in
Yugoslavia,” Jet, May 17, 1999.
31. Julie Kim, “Kosovo Conflict Chronology: September 1998-March 1999,” April 6, 1999, Congressional
Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress.
32. Ibid.
33. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp. 24, 30;
Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), pp. xiii-xiv, xxiv,
xxx; Interview of Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, by Public
Broadcasting Service (AFHRA IRIS number
01129172, call number K570.051-24, 1998-1999), pp.
34. Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil
M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p. xxix.
35. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp. 25-26;
Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p. xxx; Daniel L.
Haulman, One Hundred Years of Flight: Chronology of
Significant Air and Space Events, 1903-2002
(Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums
Program, 2003), pp. 154-155.
36. Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil
M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p. xxix;
Benjamin S. Lambeth, The Transformation of
American Air Power (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 2000), pp. 185-186.
37. John A. Tirpak, “Short’s View of the Air Cam -
paign,” Air Force Magazine vol. 82, no. 9 (September
38. Interview of Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short by Public
Broadcasting Service, AFHRA IRIS number 01129172,
pp. 1-2, 14, 19; HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia
Initial Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no.
01149318), p. 24; Gen. Wesley Clark, Waging Modern
War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat (New
York: Public Affairs, 2001), pp. 243, 245, 430.
39. Ibid., pp. 246, 305, 311, 320, 367, 438-441.
40. Ibid., p. 430.
41. Benjamin S. Lambeth, The Transformation of
American Air Power (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 2000), p. 184.
42. Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil
M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), pp. xxx-xxxi, 1519; Organizational Record Card of the 16th Air and
Space Expeditionary Task Force-NOBLE ANVIL, at
43. Marcus Tanner, “Up. to 100 Feared Dead as NATO
Bombers Strike Kosovo Village,” The Independent, May
15, 1999; Benjamin S. Lambeth, The Transformation of
American Airpower (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 2000), p. 205.
44. Interview of Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, by Public
Broadcasting Service (AFHRA IRIS number
01129172, call number K570.051-24, 1998-1999), pp.
14-15; Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col.
Phil M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo
(Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p. xxx.
45. Benjamin S. Lambeth, The Transformation of
American Air Power (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 2000), p. 187.
46. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp. 26-27,
47. Ibid., pp. 30-31; Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF,
and Lt. Col. Phil M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over
Kosovo (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press,
2003), p. xxx; Benjamin S. Lambeth, The Transformation of American Airpower (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 2000), p. 187.
48. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp. 27-31;
USAFE History 1998-1999, vol. I (AFHRA call number
K570.01, Jan 1998-Dec 1999, vol. I, IRIS number
01147645), p. 165.
49. Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil
M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p. xxxi.
50. Chris Roberts, “Holloman Commander Recalls
Being Shot Down in Serbia,” (
news_article2167.html; Dale Zelco e-mail messages to
Daniel Haulman, Sep. 17, and Oct. 5, 2009; Rudi
Williams, “Daring Rescues Snatch Pilots from Jaws of
enemy,” Defense Link News Article dated Feb. 17,
2000; Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col.
Phil M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo
(Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p.
51. USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. 193;
Benjamin S. Lambeth, The Transformation of American Air Power (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press,
2000), p. 188.
52. 16th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force,
Special Order GF-024 dated 23 August 1999.
53. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), p. 31;
Interview of Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, by Public
History / SUMMER 2015
Broadcasting Service (AFRHA IRIS number 01129172,
call number K570.051-24, 1998-1999), pp. 17-18; Col.
Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), pp. xxxi.
54. Ibid., p. xxxii; Marcus Tanner, “Up. to 100 Feared
Dead as NATO Bombers Strike Kosovo Village, The
Independent, May 15, 1999; Steven Pearlstein, “NATO
Admits Bombing Kosovo Rebels,” Washington Post,
May 23, 1999, p. A27.
55. USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxvii.
56. Organization Record Card, 16 Air and Space
Expeditionary Task Force-NOBLE ANVIL, at
AFHRA/RSO; HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia
Initial Report, Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no.
01149318), pp. 33-34.
57. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp. 31-32;
USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxvii; Col.
Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), pp. xxxii-xxxiii,
19-20; Interview of Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, by Public
Broadcasting Service (AFHRA IRIS number
01129172, call number K570.051-24, 1998-1999), p. 2;
Benjamin S. Lambeth, The Transformation of American Air Power (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press,
2000), p. 189.
58. Ibid., pp. 188-189.
59. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp. 31-32;
USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxvii; Col.
Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), pp. xxxii-xxxiii,
19-20; Interview of Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, by Public
Broadcasting Service (AFHRA IRIS number
01129172, call number K570.051-24, 1998-1999), p. 2;
Gen. Wesley K Clark, Waging Modern War (New York:
Public Affairs, 2001), pp. 365, 370, 442; Benjamin S.
Lambeth, The Transformation of American Air Power
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), p. 189.
60. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp. 31-32;
USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxvii; Col.
Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), pp. xxxii-xxxiii,
19-20; Interview of Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, by Public
Broadcasting Service (AFHRA IRIS number
01129172, call number K570.051-24, 1998-1999), p. 2;
Gen. Wesley K Clark, Waging Modern War (New York:
Public Affairs, 2001), pp. 365, 370, 442; Benjamin S.
Lambeth, The Transformation of American Air Power
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), p. 190.
61. USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, pp. xxvii-xxviii;
Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p. xxxiii; Report
by MSgt. Timothy M. Brown, “AFSOC in the Balkans:
Provide Promise to Noble Anvil, 1992-1999” (Hurlburt
Field, Fla.: Air Force Special Operations Command
History Office, 2000), p. 52; Benjamin S. Lambeth, The
Transformation of American Air Power (Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 2000), p. 190.
62. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), p. 34;
USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, p. xxviii; Col.
Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
History / SUMMER 2015
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p. xxxiv;
USAFE History 1998-1999, vol. I (AFHRA call number
K570.01) Jan 1998-Dec 1999, vol. I; IRIS number
01147645), p. 276.
63. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp. 22, 3334.
64. John A. Tirpak, “Short’s View of the Air Cam paign,” Air Force Magazine vol. 82, no. 9 (September
1999); B–2 Post Kosovo Briefing Slides by 509 Bomb
Wing of Air Combat Command (June 1999), sent from
Roy M. Handsel of the 678th ARSS to author by e-mail
dated Mar. 27, 2008.
65. Report by MSgt. Timothy M. Brown, “AFSOC in
the Balkans: Provide Promise to Noble Anvil, 19921999” (Hurlburt Field, FL: Air Force History Support
Office, 2000), pp. 43-45, 54 , 70.
66. “Air Refueling Ensures Global Reach and Global
Power,” historical report from the Air Mobility
Command history office, January 2007, pp. 24-25; HQ
USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report, Sep. 30,
1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318).
67. Ibid., pp. 7, 23-24, 32-33, 36, 46, 48; Col.
Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), pp. xiii, xv, xvii;
Susan H. H. Young, “Gallery of USAF Weapons,” Air
Force Magazine vol. 90 no. 5 (May 2007), p. 142;
USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, pp. xxvii-xxviii;
Interview of Lt. Gen. Michael C. Short, by Public
Broadcasting Service (AFHRA IRIS number
01129172, call number K570.051-24, 1998-1999), p. 21;
Wesley K. Clark, Waging Modern War (New York:
Public Affairs, 2001), pp. 430, 438; John A. Tirpak,
“Lessons Learned and Re-Learned,” Air Force
Magazine (August 1999), p. 23.
68. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), pp. 7, 23-24,
32-33, 36, 46, 48; Col. Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and
Lt. Col. Phil M. Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over
Kosovo (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press,
2003), pp. xiii, xv, xvii; Susan H. H. Young, “Gallery of
USAF Weapons,” Air Force Magazine vol. 90 no. 5 (May
2007), p. 142; USAFE History, 1998-1999, vol. I, pp.
xxvii-xxviii (material used is U); Interview (U) of Lt.
Gen. Michael C. Short, by Public Broadcasting Service
(AFHRA IRIS number 01129172, call number
K570.051-24, 1998-1999), p. 21; Wesley K. Clark,
Waging Modern War (New York: Public Affairs, 2001),
pp. 430, 438; John A. Tirpak, “Lessons Learned and ReLearned,” Air Force Magazine (August 1999), p. 23.
69. Air War Over Serbia Fact Sheet, contained in
Testimony, CSAF to SASC/HASC on Readiness
(AFHRA IRIS no. 01149329) tab 4; Gen. Wesley K.
Clark, Waging Modern War (New York: Public Affairs,
2001), p. 427; “Refueling Highlights, 1992-2007,” published by the Air Mobility Command history office in
2008; Roy Handsel, “Talking Paper on B–2
Participation in Operation Allied Force,” given to
author during his visit to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.,
home of the 678th Armament Systems Squadron; Col.
Mark D. Shakelford and others, “The Materiel
Solution,” in Air War Over Serbia: Aerospace Power in
Operation Allied Force, vol. II ( (WrightPatterson AFB, OH, 2000), p. 29.
70. HQ USAF The Air War Over Serbia Initial Report,
Sep. 30, 1999 (AFHRA IRIS no. 01149318), p. 24; Col.
Christopher E. Haave, USAF, and Lt. Col. Phil M.
Haun, USAF, editors, A–10s Over Kosovo (Maxwell
AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 2003), p. xxxiv.
Pierre Clostermann Tells It H
History / SUMMER 2015
How It Wasn’t
A. D. Harvey
History / SUMMER 2015
(Overleaf) Focke-Wulf Fw
190D-9 at the National
Museum of the United
States Air Force.
he Big Show, French fighter ace Pierre
Clostermann’s memoirs of his service with
the British Royal Air Force during the years
1942-1945, is without doubt the outstanding personal account of combat in World War II.1
By turns shocking, terrifying, reflective, sensitive
and provocative, and always astonishingly vivid, the
book has been translated into at least thirty-four languages. The youngest deputy ever elected to the
French Chambre and re-elected eight times, and a
veteran of the war in Algeria, Pierre Clostermann
(1921-2006) was a prominent figure in French public
life during the era of Charles De Gaulle but will
almost certainly be remembered mainly for his career
in wartime exile and the book he wrote about it.
In his preface Clostermann explained its origins:2
For four years my parents and I—their only child—
were separated by many thousands of miles…. to
make my father and mother understand this new
life and the mingled feelings it aroused…. every
evening I used to write down for them the events of
the day in a fat Air Ministry notebook, stamped
‘G.R.’…. It is precisely because they are true, because
they were written in the flush of action, that I have
made no attempt to re-touch these notes.
Britain’s National Archives at Kew, in the outskirts of London, preserve a number—not it seems
all—of the combat reports written down by an
Intelligence Officer while “debriefing” Clostermann
after his return from a mission, and signed by
Clostermann himself at the conclusion of the
“debriefing” session. These combat reports must
have been set down on paper in a matter of a few
hours before Clostermann, according to what he
himself claimed in his Preface, wrote his own ver-
sion in his private notebook. It turns out, however,
that the version in his official report and the version
written for his parents a few hours later, or at least
the version published in The Big Show, were not at
all in agreement as to detail.
On July 27, 1943 Clostermann shot down his
first Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and reported, “Giving him
three short bursts using from 30-10 degrees deflection from 300-200 yards, I saw strikes all round the
cockpit…. the Boche went down in a dive upside
down completely out of control.” In The Big Show
this becomes “…. at less than 200 yards range…. I
squeezed the firing button. Whoopee! Flashes all
over his fuselage. My first burst had struck home
and no mistake …. The German pilot threw his
plane into a desperate turn. Two slender white
trails formed in the air. Suddenly the Focke-Wulf
exploded like a grenade. A blinding flash, a black
cloud, then debris fluttered round my aircraft. The
engine dropped like a ball of fire. One of the wings,
torn off in the flames, dropped more slowly, like a
dead leaf, showing its pale yellow under-surface and
its olive green upper-surface alternately.”3
On August 27, 1943 he fired at another FockeWulf Fw 190 and according to the official report,
“Strikes were seen on the port wing and fuselage ….
it crashed in flames near a small wood.” In The Big
Show this becomes “Three explosions on the right
wing between the fuselage and the black crosses….
the Focke-Wulf, still on its back, hit the ground and
slid, scattering incandescent fragments everywhere,
leaving a trail of blazing fuel, hurtled through two
hedges and crashed against a road bank in a dazzling shower of sparks.”4
On January 7, 1944 Clostermann was with a
formation of Spitfires which had a rendezvous with
American bombers near Cambrai, but finding himself short of fuel he had to return home via
Hawker Tempest V. This
was the type of aircraft
flown by Clostermann in
Since 1990 A. D. Harvey has contributed more than a dozen articles on air warfare to publications such
as Journal of Contemporary History, War in History, RUSI Journal, Air Power History, and BBC History
Magazine. Various aspects of air warfare are also discussed in his two books Collision of Empires:
Britain in Three World Wars 1793-1945 (1992) and Arnhem (2001).
History / SUMMER 2015
Pierre Clostermann in
French uniform with his
Abbeville. According to The Big Show the rendezvous was at Rheims, seventy miles—more than
ten minutes flying time—south-east of Cambrai
and he was present when a seriously damaged
American B–24 bomber exploded over Dieppe, forty
miles south-west of Abbeville, though he does not
explain why the B–24, struggling on two out of four
motors, chose to fly from Rheims to Dieppe, where
the English Channel is seventy mile wide, instead of
heading to Étaples, the same distance from Rheims
but much closer to the safety of the English coast.5
On April 20, 1945, during a dusk patrol,
Clostermann encountered a half dozen Focke-Wulf
Fw 190s which were strafing an Allied armoured column. During a dog fight in which he shot down a Fw
190, six others arrived. A little later he found a lone
and unsuspecting Fw 190 and shot it down from a
distance of four hundred yards. In the The Big Show
there were thirty Focke-Wulfs “like a shoal of fish
passing under a skiff,” and these were soon joined by
another twelve, and he shot down the solitary FockeWulf despite its violent evasive maneuvering, “at
less than two hundred yards range.”6
On May 3, 1945 Clostermann led a squadron
attack on a German seaplane base, damaging two
Blohm und Voss Bv 138 flying boats and a Dornier
Do 24 flying boat on a slipway: “The DO 24 fell off
History / SUMMER 2015
into the water and was wrecked. I then sank a DO
24 at it’s [sic] moorings.” He then attacked the adjacent airfield. “I obtained strikes on two AR 232s
and from very short range on a JU 352. The ju 352
broke in half and the port wing broke off.” Thus the
official report. According to The Big Show he had to
detach most of the aircraft under his command to
deal with “about 100 enemy fighters” in separate
groups at 1,500, 3,000, 4,500 and 10,000 feet.
(These are not mentioned in his official report,
though one notes that only one other pilot in the
squadron who was flying in close formation with
Clostermann reported having hit any German aircraft on the ground.) Clostermann himself fired at
a Blohm und Voss Bv 138 in a wheeled cradle on a
launching ramp: “The moorings of the cradle
snapped and I passed over the enormous smoking
mass as it tipped up on the slope, fell into the sea,
and began to sink.” He next fired at “an enormous
Ju 252 which had just taken off and was already
getting alarmingly big in my gunsight”, and saw it
“with two engines ablaze and the tailplane sheared
off by my shells, bounce on the sea and explode.”
Meanwhile a torpedo boat in the harbor fired at
him with all its anti-aircraft guns, and “mowed
down a flock of seagulls, which fell into the sea on
all sides, panic-stricken and bleeding.” Next he
attacked three Dornier Do 24 flying boats which
had just taken off, shooting down two of them into
the water. Returning to the airfield, he then strafed
“a row of enormous transport Arado 232s”—there
were “more than 100 enormous transport planes”
on the airfield, “theoretically my primary objective.”
One cannot but be puzzled, not only at the difference in the sequence of events in the two accounts,
but by the way the Junkers Ju 352 of the official
report becomes a Junkers Ju 252, an almost identical aircraft but with metal rather than wood in its
construction, and impossible to tell apart from its
stable mate when glimpsed in the heat of action at
high speed. One would have also liked to have
known more about the “more than 100 enormous
transport planes”, seeing that the Blohm und Voss
Bv 138 was a maritime bomber and patrol plane
and Dornier Do 24, originally designed for the same
role, was almost exclusively employed in air/sea
rescue duties: the combined production of the
Junkers Ju 252, Junkers Ju 352 and Arado Ar 232
was eighty-five.7
It is not suggested for a moment that Clostermann did not shoot down an impressive number of
German aircraft. It is not even suggested that he
did not write up his notebook every evening. But it
does seem that he was incapable of resisting the
temptation to embroider his text.
In the original French edition—not in most
English editions—he printed what he claims to be a
translation of four of his official combat reports. Two
of these are to be found in the British National
Archives at Kew and seem to be approximately—
not completely—accurate renderings except that
“after attacking some more Met & a 1000 [i.e.
mechanical transport etc. at 1000 feet] I set course
for base” becomes “I set course for the base and
(Above) The Fieseler
Storch Fi 156.
(Below) The Dornier Do 24.
destroyed three lorries and trailers on the way
Clostermann also included in the original
French edition a “Tableau de Chasse” listing thirtythree confirmed aerial victories and a further
twenty-four aircraft destroyed or put out of action in
the course of strafing attacks on aerodromes. The
listing of aerial victories includes the two Dornier
Do 24s and the Junkers Ju 252 which in his book he
claimed to have shot down on May 3, and which in
the official report are stated to be among those
encountered “On Ground & Water” and also a
Fieseler Fi 156, a light aircraft used for liaison purposes, an unusual antagonist for a combat aircraft
History / SUMMER 2015
Junkers Ju 252 in flight.
that weighed four times as much and flew at four
times the speed: this must be the Fi 156 “parked
between 2 houses on the edge of a large grass field”,
which he left in flames on March 28, 1945, since it
is the only Fi 156 listed on his “Tableau de
Chasse”.9 Since it was parked it can hardly be
counted as an aerial victory. In any case according
to The Big Show, Clostermann was in hospital with
a minor wound between March 24 and 30, 1945.10
The Big Show is nevertheless a marvelous
book: it really does give a pretty authentic picture
of the experiences of a fighter pilot—but it does
seem that its truth to life is more along the lines of
Vincent van Gogh than of Vermeer.
1. The Big Show—originally published in French as
Le Grand Cirque in 1948—appeared in Oliver
Berthoud’s remarkably faithful English translation in
1951, but citations below are from the frequently
reprinted Penguin paperback edition of 1958.
2. Despite its fidelity to the original French text in
the main part of the book, the English translation
omits several passages in the “Avant-Propos”.
Clostermann went on to say, “Certain reflection and
descriptions will perhaps shock by their frankness or
their cruelty…. Obviously I hesitated a long time over
certain pages, out of a kind of private shame — but the
truth would have suffered from these suppressions.”
(My translation.)
In Britain, government-issue items like official
notebooks are customarily stamped with the royal
cipher or monogram, in this instance G.R. for Georgius
Rex, i.e. King George VI.
3. The National Archives, AIR 50/132/6, cf. The Big
Show p. 41.
4. The National Archives, AIR 50/132/21, cf. The Big
Show pp. 49-50.
5. The National Archives, AIR 50/426/86, cf. The Big
Show pp. 90, 93.
6. The National Archives, AIR 50/4/210, cf. The Big
Show pp. 220, 223.
7. The National Archives, AIR 50/4/136, cf. The Big
Show pp. 242-5. The official report states that all the
aircraft Clostermann claimed to have destroyed or
damaged were “On Ground & Water”—The Big Show
indicates that three were airborne—and that his
squadron suffered no losses—The Big Show seems to
suggest that he was leading two squadrons which suffered the loss of up to eleven aircraft out of twenty-four
(p. 247). One might mention that the large trimotor
History / SUMMER 2015
landplane he destroyed is just as likely to have been an
Italian-built Savoia-Marchetti S. 82, which was
employed by the Luftwaffe in much larger numbers
than the Junkers Ju 252 and Ju 352.
In the passage quoted from the official report the
Arado transports are actually referred to as “AR 234s”,
which is clearly a mistake: the Ar 234 was a jet bomber.
The summary of aircraft claimed destroyed or damaged however correctly identifies the aircraft as Ar
8. The National Archives, AIR 50/22, report dated
Apr. 2, 1945, cf. Le Grand Cirque (Paris, 1948) p. 288.
Clostermann at this stage flying with No. 56
Squadron, R.A.F, also says that he was leading a section designated “Filmstar Yellow”, “Filmstar” being the
call-sign for No. 3 Squadron to which he transferred a
short time later; he was in fact number 2 in a section
designated “Nalgo Yellow”, “Nalgo” being No. 56
Squadron’s call-sign. The combat reports in Le Grand
Cirque are included in an edition of The Big Show published in 2004, at p.331-4. See also AIR 50/22, report
dated Apr. 5, 1945.
9. The National Archives, AIR 50/22, report Mar. 28,
1945. Clostermann’s thirty-three confirmed aerial victories (victoires homologuées en combat aérien) listed
in Le Grand Cirque (Paris, 1948) p. 286 is generally
accepted in France: his official score according to Royal
Air Force reckoning is only fourteen individual victories in the air, the others being shared or unconfirmed.
Most experts would now accept that Marcel Albert who
shot down twenty-three German aircraft, all but one of
them while serving with the Normandie-Niemen
Regiment on the Eastern Front, was the highest scoring French aviator of World War II.
10. The Big Show, p. 207.
A War Too Long: Part I
History / SUMMER 2015
John S. Schlight
History / SUMMER 2015
(Overleaf) Flying under
radar control with a B–66
Destroyer, Air Force F–105
Thunderchief pilots bomb a
military target through low
clouds over the southern
panhandle of North Viet
Nam, June 14, 1966.
he Air Force instinctively disliked the slow,
gradual way the United States prosecuted its
war against the Vietnamese communists.
While Americans undoubtedly delayed a communist victory in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia
long enough to spare Thailand and other Southeast
Asian countries a similar fate, the American public
grew very tired of this war years before its dismal
conclusion. Due to questionable political policies
and decision-making, only sporadic and relatively
ineffective use had been made of air power’s ability
to bring great force to bear quickly and decisively.
The United States and its Air Force experienced a
decade of frustration made more painful by the
losses of its personnel killed, wounded, or taken
prisoner. Fighting resolutely and courageously, the
Air Force played the decisive role in forcing North
Vietnam to the peace table in 1973. The demands of
the Vietnam War forced new developments such as
laser-guided-bombs that would eventually radically
transform the shape of air warfare.
When President John F. Kennedy took office in
January 1961, communist-led wars of national liberation loomed on the horizon. Earlier that month,
Nikita S. Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, had
endorsed this kind of warfare before a world communist conference in Moscow, and Kennedy interpreted the speech as a warning to the West and a
definitive statement of Soviet policy. Consequently,
the new Chief Executive could not help but be concerned about the attempt of one communist faction,
the Pathet Lao, to seize control of the kingdom of
Laos and the attempt of another communist force,
the Viet Cong, to overthrow the government headed
by Ngo Dinh Diem in the Republic of Vietnam, also
called South Vietnam. Although warned by his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, that Laos held the
key to control of Southeast Asia, Kennedy soon
became convinced otherwise, for close study
revealed that the kingdom was sorely divided with
no strong anticommunist leadership. He quickly
concluded that the best the United States could
hope for in Laos was neutrality, however fragile, in
which the communist and noncommunist factions
offset each other politically and militarily.
Kennedy and his advisers concluded that, in
comparison to Laos, South Vietnam afforded a more
favorable battleground in what they viewed as a
worldwide struggle against communist-inspired
insurrections. President Diem, despite challenges
by armed political factions and mutinous army officers, had remained in power since 1954 as prime
minister or president, and American military advisers already were in place with the South
Vietnamese armed forces. Moreover, Kennedy
believed, incorrectly as was soon revealed, the
Southeast Asia Treaty Organization had a special
interest in the independence of the Republic of
Vietnam. Logic therefore persuaded the youthful
Kennedy to choose the more stable nation of South
Vietnam as the site of a major American effort to
contain communism.
Although the Diem regime seemed strong in
comparison to the government of Laos, the Viet
Cong posed a far greater threat than the Pathet
Lao. Like the Kennedy administration in the
United States, the leadership of the Democratic
Republic of Vietnam, or North Vietnam, nudged
Laos into the wings and thrust South Vietnam to
center stage for the next act of a drama that began
in 1946 with the uprising against the French. The
North Vietnamese intended to unite all of Vietnam
under the control of the communist regime at
Hanoi, thus winning the victory denied them by the
Geneva Conference of 1954, which resulted in two
Vietnams, North and South. North Vietnam’s principal instrument for that purpose was the Viet
Cong, the name a contraction of a term that meant
Vietnamese communists. Originally composed
mainly of South Vietnamese, some trained in the
North, the nature of the revolutionary forces
changed over time, for the Hanoi government in the
spring and summer of 1959 established routes of
supply by sea along the coast and overland through
southern Laos to sustain the war. The maze of roads
and trails in Laos came to be called the Ho Chi
Minh Trail, after the leader of North Vietnam, and
served not only to supply and reinforce the Viet
Cong, but also, later in the war, to introduce combat
units of the North Vietnamese Army into the South.
The North Vietnamese, however, had not yet taken
over the fighting; during 1960 the Viet Cong waged
war with perhaps 4,000 full-time soldiers backed by
twice as many part-time guerrillas, but the numbers were increasing.
The presence of so large a force, and its ability
to carry out ambushes and assassinations with near
impunity, testified to a deep-rooted dissatisfaction
with the Diem government. To a typical peasant,
the Saigon regime seemed a far-off entity that
imposed taxes and enforced arbitrary rules, but
failed to address issues, like the ownership of land,
that were truly vital to rural villagers. However stable it might appear in comparison to Laos, Diem’s
Republic of Vietnam was beset by rivalries— the
landless against those who owned the land,
Catholics (among them Diem) against the more
numerous Buddhists, persons who had fled the communist North against natives of the South, and
finally Diem’s family (his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu
and Nhu’s wife) against the nation’s politicians and
the American diplomats and military advisers in
Col. John S. Schlight, USAF (Ret.) graduated from St. Vincent’s College in 1950, and earned
MA and Ph.D. degrees in History from Princeton. After serving for five years as a navigator, Col.
Schlight spent the rest of his career until 1976 in academic military positions, nine years at the
U.S. Air Force Academy and three years at the National War College. His final position was as
the Deputy Chief of the Office of Air Force History, where he retired in 1983. After that tenure,
he moved on to the U.S. Army’s Center of Military History until his civilian retirement.
History / SUMMER 2015
what became a struggle for the ear of an increasingly suspicious and arbitrary ruler.
Whatever his failings, Diem headed a functioning government, and this fact helped South
Vietnam obtain the support of an American administration that had twenty Vietnams a day to handle,
according to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the
President’s brother. Nonetheless, not even crises of
the magnitude of the Soviet threat to force the West
from Berlin obscured the serious shortcomings
Diem and his government displayed in their struggle against an insurgency sustained from the
North. In fact, as early as 1961, Gen. Maxwell D.
Taylor (at the time, military adviser to the
President, but subsequently Chairman, Joint Chiefs
of Staff, and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of
Vietnam) argued for sending American ground
troops, but Kennedy chose not to involve the United
States to that extent. The President believed that
Diem, with American advice, backed by economic
aid and military assistance, could defeat the Viet
Cong in battle and embark on programs to improve
History / SUMMER 2015
the lot of the peasants, winning their loyalty by providing them both land and security. This executive
decision represented a middle course: the President
did not want to risk charges that he was losing
Vietnam, as President Harry S. Truman allegedly
lost China; neither did he want a major war in
Southeast Asia when Khrushchev was exerting
pressure elsewhere and America’s general purpose
forces were not yet fully organized, trained, or
equipped in accordance with the doctrine of flexible
The activity of the U.S. Air Force in what
became South Vietnam began during France’s
struggle to retain control of Indochina. In return for
active French participation in the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization, the United States supported
France’s ambitions in Southeast Asia, sending
munitions, aircraft, and mechanics and other technicians to repair and maintain the American-supplied equipment. In 1955, after the victory of the
communist Viet Minh and the division of Vietnam
into North and South, the U.S. Military Assistance
Advisory Group, Indochina, active since 1950, and
its air section, formed in 1951, became the Military
Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam. Thus, since
the departure of the French advisers, a comparative
handful of Air Force officers and enlisted men had
worked to strengthen the South Vietnamese Air
Force. By early 1961, six squadrons were ready for
combat—one fighter, two transport, two liaison
craft, and one helicopter. Meanwhile, people and
supplies moved down the Ho Chi Minh Trail; and as
many as 15,000 Viet Cong were armed, supplied,
and active in the vicinity of Saigon, the capital city,
and elsewhere in the South. By this time, the armed
forces of the Republic of Vietnam resembled their
American models with ground, sea, and (as the existence of the six squadrons testified) air components,
but the Viet Cong still fought exclusively as a guerrilla army, organized and trained to strike swiftly,
preferably from ambush, and to engage in calculated acts of terrorism.
General Taylor conceded that his recommendation to send combat troops carried the risk of depleting the Army’s strategic reserve and setting the
nation on a course of action with an unpredictable
outcome. Consequently, the Kennedy administration chose to encourage the development of a stable
society and a self-sustaining economy as prerequisites for the defeat of communism in South
Vietnam, but took a few military measures in 1961
to signal American support for the Diem government, to increase the effectiveness of the South
Vietnamese armed forces, and to lay the foundation
for future American deployments, should they
become necessary. Among these measures, a
Combat Development and Test Center at Saigon
evaluated equipment and techniques for counterinsurgency and some 400 soldiers of the Special
Forces, the Army’s counterinsurgency arm, built
defensive outposts along the border with Laos to
challenge the infiltration of men and supplies over
the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
The Air Force buildup during 1961 had the
A Jungle Jim B–26.
same basic purposes of symbolizing American concern, improving the military skills of the South
Vietnamese, and preparing for a possibly greater
involvement by the U.S. Air Force. In September, the
first permanent unit, a combat reporting post, with
sixty-seven officers and airmen assigned, installed
radars at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which also served
as Saigon’s airport, and began monitoring air traffic
and training South Vietnamese to operate and service the equipment. This organization formed the
nucleus of what became a tactical air control system
for a vast fleet of South Vietnamese and American
aircraft. During the following month, four RF–101s
and a photo processing unit joined the combat
reporting post, with the reconnaissance craft flying
photographic missions over South Vietnam and
Laos within a few days of their arrival. The aircraft
soon began working with a similar photo reconnaissance detachment based at Bangkok, Thailand.
The assignment of advisers and the various
other measures taken in support of the Republic of
Vietnam had little military effect. Clashes with the
Viet Cong became more frequent, and the enemy
began using battalions in pitched battles instead of
dispatching small raiding parties or lashing out
from ambush. Consequently, the American involvement in South Vietnam changed from giving advice
and technical assistance to serving as a partner in
prosecuting the war. The President demonstrated
this limited partnership in October 1961 when he
sent a special Air Force detachment to South
Vietnam that flew combat missions even as it
trained Diem’s air arm. By mid-November this Air
Force counterinsurgency unit, called Farm Gate,
had assembled a collection of elderly C–47s, T–28s,
and B–26s at Bien Hoa Air Base near Saigon. The
transports conducted reconnaissance or psychological warfare missions; the bombers and armed trainers attacked the Viet Cong, ostensibly to train South
Vietnamese airmen. Soon, U.S. Army helicopters
carried South Vietnamese troops into action, as
American door gunners fired at the enemy and
Farm Gate bombed and strafed in support of the
The Kennedy administration was not yet ready,
however, to acknowledge how rapidly the American
share in the partnership was expanding. Besides
being limited, with comparatively few Americans
performing certain carefully defined duties, the new
activity was deniable. Until forced to do so by casualties and reports in the press, spokesmen for the
administration refused to acknowledge that
Americans were fighting the Viet Cong except
unavoidably and in the course of their training
duties. To preserve the illusion that combat was
somehow a by-product of the training function,
Farm Gate aircraft wore South Vietnamese insignia
and usually carried a South Vietnamese, nominally
a trainee, when conducting strikes or other combat
missions. Moreover, Farm Gate received instructions to undertake only those combat operations
beyond the ability of the South Vietnamese Air
Force with its C–47s and T–28s supplied by the U.S.
Air Force or Douglas AD6 attack bombers (later
redesignated A–1Hs) obtained from the Navy.
Separate organizations directed Farm Gate’s two
missions. The Air Force section of the Military
Assistance Advisory Group, Vietnam, supervised
the training function, while the 2d Advance
Echelon, organizationally an element of the headquarters of the Thirteenth Air Force, controlled combat operations. In November 1961, Brig. Gen. Rollen
History / SUMMER 2015
H. Anthis, vice commander of the Thirteenth Air
Force, became the first head of the 2d Advance
Following the creation during February 1962 of
an American unified command, the U.S. Military
Assistance Command, Vietnam, under Gen. Paul D.
Harkins of the Army, Anthis became the air commander in Vietnam as well as the representative of
the Pacific Air Forces for all Air Force matters
throughout Southeast Asia. Despite the increased
responsibilities given Anthis, the strong Army orientation of the staff of the new assistance command
upset Air Force leaders at every level and presaged
difficulties for the Air Force in its future efforts to
organize air power in Southeast Asia in the way
that it considered most efficient.
Shortly after these organizational changes in
South Vietnam, the major powers concerned with
the fate of Laos the United States, the Soviet Union,
and the People’s Republic of China agreed at
Geneva, in July 1962, to respect the neutrality of
the kingdom, damping the violence there. In the
future, however, warfare would erupt in northern
Laos, where neither the United States nor the
Democratic Republic of Vietnam chose to invest the
resources necessary for a clear-cut victory, and in
the southern part of the country, where the Ho Chi
Minh Trail came under sustained attack as an
extension of the fighting in South Vietnam.
Despite the neutralization of Laos and encouraging reports from South Vietnam, the new Air
Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, grew
skeptical of existing policy, questioning the effectiveness of the existing partnership in a war being
fought exclusively against the Viet Cong. He
believed that the limited scope of the fighting and
the emphasis on economic and political reform represented a quick fix, which merely postponed the
day of reckoning. In contrast to Taylor, who proposed sending ground forces into South Vietnam,
the Air Force officer argued that the war in the
South could be won and the tensions in Laos
resolved only through prompt and firm military
action directed against North Vietnam. Reversing
the frequently heard argument that political and
economic reform in the Republic of Vietnam would
provide the foundation for a military victory there,
LeMay maintained that only the removal of the
threat from the North could produce the conditions
that would result in stability, prosperity, and
assured independence.
During January 1962, as LeMay offered this
approach to the war, a detachment of a dozen
Fairchild C–123 transports arrived in South
Vietnam to deliver supplies to distant outposts, like
those established by the Army Special Forces along
the border with Laos, and to drop South Vietnamese
parachute troops in operations against the Viet
Cong. Called Mule Train, the unit operated ten
C–123s from Tan Son Nhut Air Base and two from
Da Nang. In March, however, control of the detachment’s aircraft passed to the recently formed assistance command, and a combination of factors
altered the original mission. The head of the assis-
History / SUMMER 2015
tance command, General Harkins, preferred the
Army’s newer but slightly smaller de Havilland
CV–2 Caribou transports for supplying distant outposts, taking one of Mule Train’s jobs. The other
mission, dropping paratroops, was important at
first but faded as the helicopter replaced the parachute as the preferred method of airborne attack.
For a time, five of Mule Train’s C–123s, six C–47s
flown by Americans, and 500 South Vietnamese
paratroops formed a task force for immediate
employment by an air operations center of the tactical air control system, but this fire brigade had
disbanded by the time the detachment made its
first drops in December 1962 and January 1963.
Meanwhile, Viet Cong ambushes disrupted travel
by highway, so the C–123s inherited the vital task of
carrying passengers and cargo throughout the
country. By June 1962, when a second detachment
of Air Force transports arrived at Tan Son Nhut, the
number of monthly sorties had risen to more than
1,100 from the 296 of January, almost a fourfold
increase since Mule Train first went into action.
Three C–123s equipped for defoliation missions
using herbicides believed to be harmless to people
and animals had accompanied the original Mule
Train detachment. In January 1962, the aircraft
tried unsuccessfully to destroy the foliage along a
highway near Bien Hoa Air Base that might conceal
Viet Cong ambush parties. During the following
month, one of these aircraft crashed while on a
training mission, causing the first Air Force fatalities of the war Capt. Fergus C. Groves II, Capt.
Robert D. Larson, and SSgt. Milo B. Coghill. In the
meantime, investigations determined that the Bien
Hoa mission had failed because the herbicide was
effective only during the growing season. The schedule for spraying was revised accordingly, and a second test, conducted during September and October
in the Ca Mau peninsula, killed ninety percent of
the vegetation along a waterway. President Kennedy thereupon approved aerial spraying of herbicides to deprive the enemy of concealment, but he
prohibited the aircraft from attacking the Viet
Cong’s food crops, which were believed also to feed
peasants whose loyalty might yet be gained by the
government at Saigon. Before the defoliation missions ended in 1971, crops, too, were sprayed in both
Laos and South Vietnam, and a bitter controversy
had begun concerning the effects of the most widely
used defoliant, agent orange, on human beings.
With the proliferation of aircraft during 1962,
the Air Force attempted to bring them all under its
tactical air control system. From the viewpoint of
the Air Force, the most efficient use of aircraft, conventional and helicopters, was with a single operations center that shifted them around to keep pace
with a changing situation; the least efficient was
assigning them permanently to a unit or geographic
area. In January of that year, the 2d Advance
Echelon (which became the 2d Air Division in
October) opened an air operations center at Tan Son
Nhut and ancillary air support operations centers
at Da Nang and Pleiku. Theoretically, the
Vietnamese, with American assistance, were to
learn to run the centers, which were capable of
scheduling, directing, and monitoring all flights in
the country, but attempts to encourage Vietnamese
participation encountered obstacles. President
Diem, who had thwarted a military coup in 1960
and survived a 1962 bombing attack on the presidential palace by dissident members of his air force,
insisted on a decentralized military structure with
loyal officers in key positions to prevent a coordinated uprising by the military. He parceled out control of South Vietnamese aircraft among the four
corps commanders, who grew used to having their
own air support and resisted centralization. With
the corps commanders inserted into the control
mechanism, the comparatively junior officers of the
South Vietnamese Air Force dared not alter the system. As a result, the Americans simply took over the
control centers, imposing on their own initiative the
slight degree of centralized control, mainly over air
traffic rather than air strikes, that did exist. The
actual direction of air strikes was the job of South
Vietnamese forward air controllers, but they, too,
were junior officers hesitant to give advice to the
more senior ground commanders. Moreover, the
communications network that held the tactical air
control system together was at first inadequate; not
until late 1962 did the Americans install truly reliable radio and teletype links.
The U.S. Military Assistance Command
opposed placing the Army’s helicopters and other
aircraft under a control system operated by the Air
Force. Basically, General Harkins rejected centralized control for the same reason that General
Anthis recommended it to promote efficiency and
effectiveness. Air Force officers tended to think of
these qualities in terms of the ability to manipulate
scarce resources to meet changing needs, but for an
Army officer, placing the necessary tools, including
helicopters, in the hands of the troop commander
who would use them increased efficiency and effectiveness. Acting consistently with his service’s doctrine, Harkins assigned his helicopters to the senior
Army officer in each corps area.
Throughout 1962 the Air Force supported the
South Vietnamese by attacking Viet Cong training
areas, troop concentrations, supply depots, and sampans; by bombing and strafing in support of ground
operations; and by improving aerial reconnaissance.
The Department of State vetoed plans to provide
South Vietnam with a few jet reconnaissance craft,
viewing the move as a violation of a prohibition in
the Geneva Accords of 1954 against South Vietnam’s acquiring jet aircraft. In retrospect, given the
buildup that occurred later, this concern seems trivial, but in 1962, the United States was moving
slowly into the unknown, gradually strengthening
its commitment, and seeking to justify its every act.
Opposition from the diplomats prevailed, and the
South Vietnamese air force began to activate a
reconnaissance squadron of modified C–47s at Tan
Son Nhut. During the two years that passed before
the converted transports became fully operational,
the U.S. Air Force filled the gap with its own
When 1962 ended, more than 11,000 Americans served in South Vietnam, a third of them members of the Air Force, and during the first seven
months of 1963, several additional Air Force units
entered the country. In April, for instance, a third
Mule Train unit of C–123s began flying out of Da
Nang, and in July, a new tactical air support
squadron at Bien Hoa began training South
Vietnamese forward air controllers in Cessna O–1
observation craft. At midyear, roughly 5,000 Air
Force personnel were in South Vietnam, about a
third of the total American military strength in the
country, the same ratio as in December of the previous year. In May, however, as the total number of
Americans approached 15,000, Secretary of Defense
Robert S. McNamara announced that some advisers
would leave South Vietnam by the end of that year.
As plans proceeded for at least token reductions, the Air Force contingent reorganized. Initially,
most Air Force units sent to South Vietnam were ad
hoc detachments like Farm Gate or Mule Train, borrowed from regularly constituted outfits in the
United States or elsewhere. As commander of the 2d
Air Division, General Anthis dealt with over a dozen
separate major units. To remedy this, the detachments were converted in July 1963 into squadrons
and assigned to a small number of groups. Farm
Gate became the 1st Air Commando squadron, a
component of the Pacific Air Forces. The three Mule
Train units at Tan Son Nhut and Da Nang became
troop carrier squadrons assigned to a troop carrier
group newly established at Tan Son Nhut. The 33d
Tactical Group at Tan Son Nhut and the 34th at
Bien Hoa performed administrative and maintenance tasks and set up detachments at smaller, outlying airfields, the 33d assuming responsibility for
Can Tho and Nha Trang and the 34th for Soc Trang
and Pleiku. The 23d Air Base Group performed the
same duties at Da Nang, reported directly to the 2d
Air Division, and placed a detachment at Qui Nhon.
The 1963 National Campaign Plan, drafted by
the military assistance command and approved by
Diem, called for operations that would provide a
wedge for breaking the Viet Cong resistance in subsequent years. In general, the document all but
ignored aviation and emphasized rooting out the
Viet Cong through many small, locally controlled
ground operations. Although the plan called for
closer cooperation between the military assistance
command and the South Vietnamese Joint General
Staff, it did not place the 2d Air Division in charge
of all aerial operations in the country. In July 1963,
disregarding requests from the headquarters of the
Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii to bring Army aviation
under Air Force control, Harkins created his own air
operations section to supervise Army and Marine
Corps aviation, mainly helicopters. Two separate air
control systems now existed, one for the Army and
Marine Corps and the other for the Air Force. Even
though the South Vietnamese air arm was theoretically subject to the Air Force system, the Vietnamese corps commanders frustrated efforts to
exert centralized control. For example, the Air Force
generally could not employ South Vietnamese airAIR POWER
History / SUMMER 2015
McDonnell RF–101C in
flight over Vietnam in May
1963, THE
craft for interdiction strikes against base areas
because these missions tended to clash with the
individual interests of the largely independent
corps commanders.
By the summer of 1963, the Kennedy administration had discovered that Diem possessed an
almost limitless capacity to disappoint. Instead of
demanding a vigorous campaign against the Viet
Cong, he rewarded commanders whose units suffered the fewest casualties, a move designed to
maintain his popularity by shielding the populace
from one of the effects of the war. Yet, even as he
courted popularity in this fashion, he deepened the
divisions within the country by using the armed
forces to suppress the Buddhists. Worse, he pushed
stubbornly ahead with a program of involuntary
resettlement that failed utterly to provide land ownership or security for the peasants uprooted from
their villages and collected in supposedly more
defensible hamlets. In November of that year, a
group of army officers, with the tacit approval of the
American government, overthrew Diem. President
Kennedy, who had hoped, perhaps believed, that the
coup would result in exile or possibly a formal trial
for Diem and his brother, was shocked when the
successful plotters killed the two men.
Within the eight months following the murder
of Diem and Nhu on November 2, 1963, the entire
South Vietnamese and American leadership
changed. In the United States, President Kennedy
was assassinated on November 22, and responsibility for American policy in Southeast Asia devolved
on the former Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson. In
January 1964, Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Moore became
the new commander of the 2d Air Division. Gen.
William C. Westmoreland, advancing from the
grade of lieutenant general and the post of deputy
History / SUMMER 2015
commander, took over the U.S. Military Assistance
Command in June, and General Taylor stepped
down as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing
Henry Cabot Lodge as ambassador to the Saigon
government. During February, Adm. U. S. Grant
Sharp assumed command of the Pacific Command,
the parent organization of Westmoreland’s military
assistance command. Although the United States
continued to support South Vietnam throughout
these changes, the prospects of achieving stability
and security by means of a partnership faded as the
junta that had toppled Diem collapsed and one government succeeded another in dismaying succession at Saigon.
In March 1964, the Pathet Lao overran the
Plain of Jars in the northern part of Laos, shattering the calm that had settled on the country after
the Geneva conference of 1962. In reaction, the
Johnson administration transferred some T–28s to
the Royal Laotian Air Force and established an Air
Force detachment at Udorn in Thailand, some fortyfive miles south of Vientiane, the administrative
capital of Laos, to train Laotian pilots and maintain
their aircraft. After Pathet Lao gunners downed an
U.S. Navy reconnaissance jet in June, eight F–100s
struck an antiaircraft position on the Plain of Jars,
opening a second Air Force war in Southeast Asia,
although one that never achieved the importance of
the fighting in South Vietnam.
Within South Vietnam, the early months of
1964 were a time of expansion, training, and comparative quiet. By mid-year, the South Vietnamese
Air Force had grown to thirteen squadrons four
fighter, four observation, three helicopter, and two
C–47 transport. The South Vietnamese followed
the practice of the U.S. Air Force, organizing the
squadrons into wings, with one wing located in
An F–100 drops napalm.
each of the four corps tactical zones at Can Tho,
Tan Son Nhut, Pleiku, and Da Nang. In response
to the desire of his American air advisers for centralized control, Col. Nguyen Cao Ky, commander
of the South Vietnamese Air Force, assigned the
wings to geographical areas rather than to individual corps commanders, thereby retaining some
measure of influence over their use without alienating the ground generals. The increase in the
number of aircraft available to Ky was somewhat
deceiving, however, for difficulty in training South
Vietnamese pilots, the worn-out condition of the
fighters, and the inefficiency of the air request net
limited strikes to about half the number actually
requested by the ground forces. The situation
brightened somewhat after midyear, when A–1
Skyraiders replaced the combat-weary T–28s and
B–26s in both the U.S. and South Vietnamese Air
Forces. Reaction times improved with the streamlining of the air request net to reduce the number
of echelons that had to approve immediate air
strikes, those delivered to meet emergencies on the
While the South Vietnamese Air Force modernized and increased in size, the unsuccessful National Campaign Plan of 1963 gave way to the following year’s National Pacification Plan, designed to
extend security by working outward from the areas
held by the government. General LeMay, impatient
with yet another slow and limited strategy, still preferred immediate interdiction strikes in South
Vietnam, air attacks on the guerrillas in Laos, and
the bombing of North Vietnam and the mining of its
harbors. As the latest scheme for pacification lost
momentum and the South Vietnamese encountered
stronger resistance, the administration gave ideas
like LeMay’s more consideration.
In July 1964, planners from the Joint Chiefs of
Staff and the Hawaiian headquarters of the Pacific
Command prepared a three-phase contingency plan
for aerial attacks on North Vietnam. Although the
United States continued to emphasize operations
on the ground, the plan for air action was ready if
needed. Under the plan, the Commander in Chief,
Pacific, would direct the air war against the North
from Hawaii rather than the Commander, U.S.
Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. That contingency planning of this sort seemed necessary
reflected a growing American conviction that the
partnership with the armed forces of South
Vietnam was not winning on the battlefield.
During the months immediately following the
murder of Diem, no strong leader emerged from
among the various military men trying unsuccessfully to unite the populace and govern the country. As
a consequence of the recurring political upheaval, the
tempo of the war against the Viet Cong slowed, but
the enemy could not take full advantage of the chaos,
for the overthrow of Diem and the collapse of the
resettlement program satisfied the grievances that
had motivated many peasants to support the insurgency. Ho Chi Minh and his advisers became convinced that if South Vietnam were to be absorbed
quickly into the North, regulars from the North
Vietnamese Army would have to march south and
reinforce the Viet Cong, interjecting discipline and
improving effectiveness. At almost the same time
that North Vietnam considered escalating the conflict, the Johnson administration lost patience with
South Vietnamese progress and started to search for
a means to shore up the government at Saigon or,
failing that, for some unilateral means to confront Ho
Chi Minh and make him blink, as Khrushchev had
blinked at the height of the Cuban missile crisis.
History / SUMMER 2015
The summer of 1964, however, seemed a poor
time to take independent action against North
Vietnam. The President, who faced an election in
November, had cast himself as advocate of peace in
contrast to his probable Republican opponent,
Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona, who was
both a major general in the Air Force Reserve and a
vocal advocate of stronger military action in
Southeast Asia. Like President Kennedy, who had
wanted neither the blame for losing Vietnam nor a
major war on his hands, Johnson sought to contain
communism without becoming involved in a conflict
that drained the treasury and crippled the social
programs he intended as his legacy to the nation.
Moreover, the exact scope of the struggle for
Southeast Asia defied prediction, especially since
the administration was largely unaware of either
the widening fissure in what was still described as
the Sino-Soviet bloc or the historic rivalry between
China and Vietnam. Therefore, the President and
his advisers, both military and diplomatic,
remained wary lest China, if the survival of North
Vietnam were threatened, intervene as it had in
Korea in 1950. Johnson hoped for a national consensus about America’s role in Southeast Asia, a
widely shared support for a manageable course of
military action that would serve as a deterrent to
Hanoi. Ironically, the navy of North Vietnam inadvertently helped shape public opinion much as
Johnson desired.
Attitudes among voters toward the nation’s
involvement in Southeast Asia became more supportive after North Vietnam unexpectedly challenged the presence of American warships in waters
off its coast. The North Vietnamese Navy reacted as
an American destroyer, the USS Maddox, conducted
a routine reconnaissance mission at the same time
that South Vietnamese naval craft were harassing
installations on the coast of North Vietnam. On the
afternoon of August 2, 1964, three torpedo boats
attacked the Maddox, scoring a hit with a single
machinegun bullet, but missing with torpedoes.
Gunfire from the destroyer and attacks by aircraft
from the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga sank one of
the boats and badly damaged another. After this
action, the Maddox joined another destroyer, the
USS C. Turner Joy, and resumed the patrol, both to
obtain intelligence and to demonstrate American
insistence on the right of free passage in international waters. At no time did any American reconnaissance ship steam closer than five miles to North
Vietnamese territory, a distance significant because
the French, when they ruled the area, had claimed
territorial waters extending just three miles, and
North Vietnam had not announced different restrictions. On the night of August 4, as the two destroyers continued the patrol, torpedo boats again
appeared, shadowed the American warships, then
closed at high speed.
In a confused action that lasted beyond midnight, two of the attacking boats were believed sunk
and one badly damaged, but both destroyers
emerged unscathed. Besides ordering carrier aircraft to bomb the bases used by the torpedo boats,
History / SUMMER 2015
President Johnson, in the event of future attacks by
North Vietnam, obtained congressional authorization for appropriate retaliation in the Tonkin Gulf
Resolution, which passed the House of Representatives unanimously and encountered only two dissenting votes in the Senate on August 10, 1964. He
also ordered a force of Air Force jets into Southeast
Asia in the event of a North Vietnamese or Chinese
response to the carrier raids. The actions in the Gulf
of Tonkin and their immediate political consequences did not at once change the course of the
war; indeed, events unfolded so slowly and logically
that only in retrospect can the resolution be seen as
a major turning point, a grant of authority that
made the President solely responsible for the conduct of American policy in Southeast Asia and
enabled him, as long as the North persisted in trying to conquer the South, to use force as he saw fit.
The aircraft dispatched by the Air Force as part
of the American reaction to the fighting in the Gulf
of Tonkin reached their new bases quickly. Within
the space of days, twelve F–102s arrived in South
Vietnam, their number divided between Tan Son
Nhut and at Da Nang; eight F–100s joined the
F–102s at Da Nang, and two squadrons of B–57
bombers landed at Bien Hoa. More aircraft flew to
other locations in Southeast Asia and the western
Pacific: in Thailand, ten F–100s went to Takhli Air
Base and eight F–105s to Korat; F–100s arrived in
the Philippines; RF–101s deployed to Okinawa;
forty-eight C–130 transports were apportioned
between Okinawa and the Philippines; and the
Strategic Air Command flew forty-eight KC–135
tankers from Hawaii to Guam to refuel the jet fighters should they go into action.
Despite the arrival of reinforcements in the Far
East, combat operations remained restricted to
South Vietnam, carried out by air commandos in
propeller-driven aircraft well suited for fighting
insurgents. The deployment of the jets served,
therefore, as a demonstration of American resolve,
not unlike the reinforcement of tactical aviation
units in Europe at the time of the Berlin crisis. Of
greater tactical importance was the arrival a
squadron of twenty-five A–1Hs, obtained by the Air
Force from the Navy, which joined the original Farm
Gate detachment at Bien Hoa, and the deployment
of another squadron of sixteen C–123s to Tan Son
Whatever their immediate military value, the
B–57s deployed to Bien Hoa afforded a tempting
target. On November 1, 1964, Viet Cong guerrillas
with mortars infiltrated the base during darkness,
killed four American servicemen, wounded seventy-two, and destroyed five and damaged thirteen
of the eighteen B–57s located there. Ambassador
Taylor called for prompt retaliation, though not
necessarily for the kind of sustained bombing campaign outlined during July in Hawaii, for he worried that such an air offensive might well trigger a
communist offensive on the ground that would
overwhelm the feeble South Vietnamese government. Unlike an extended air campaign, a sharp
retaliatory blow might serve as a warning to the
North without undue risk to the South as well as a
prod to move the Saigon regime toward greater
cohesiveness and efficiency. In short, the United
States might attack the North to retaliate for the
assault on Bien Hoa and then promise continued
bombing in return for political, economic, and military reforms on the part of the leadership at
Saigon. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, disagreed with Taylor and recommended a series of
strong and immediate actions to increase American
participation in the war. Their recommendations
included air attacks against the infiltration route
through southern Laos; strikes by carrier aircraft,
Air Force fighter-bombers, and B–52s against airfields, the oil storage tanks at Hanoi and Haiphong,
and then, in rapid succession, the remainder of a
list of ninety-four North Vietnamese targets identified by American planners; and the immediate
deployment of marines and soldiers to defend Da
Nang, Tan Son Nhut, and Bien Hoa against future
hit-and-run attacks. Since the Presidential election
would take place on November 3, Johnson chose to
do nothing. Although he had retaliated after the
Tonkin Gulf incident, a response to the attack on
Bien Hoa could have suggested further involvement, defaced his image as a man of peace, and
reinforced Goldwater’s claims that the United
States was already in a shooting war and should do
whatever was necessary to win.
Once reelected, Johnson initiated planning for
a tougher program of gradually escalating military
action to begin, if necessary, early in 1965. As was so
often the case, the administration’s proposed course
of action represented a mean between two undesirable extremes. Just as Kennedy had chosen assistance to the South Vietnamese as a compromise
between sending American ground forces and losing
the country to the Viet Cong, Johnson now tried to
find a middle way between mobilizing the United
States and intervening with every conventional
weapon available to the general purpose forces (a
worst-case scenario far beyond what the Joint
Chiefs of Staff recommended) and withdrawing
from South Vietnam, an alternative that no recent
administration had seriously entertained.
Moreover, the threat of escalation had worked during the Cuban missile crisis. Although the
announcement and enforcement of a quarantine
had been enough, a succession of other options
remained, but Khrushchev blinked before it became
necessary to bomb the missile sites, invade Cuba, or,
if missiles actually were launched from the island,
to retaliate with nuclear weapons against the Soviet
When President Johnson at last approved
action to discourage the increasing aggressiveness
of the communist forces in the South, he authorized
an aerial attack against the Ho Chi Minh Trail to
signal Hanoi of America’s determination to sustain
South Vietnamese independence. On December 14,
some six weeks after the attack at Bien Hoa,
F–100s, RF–101s, and F–105s based in Thailand hit
the infiltration route in a section of the Laotian panhandle nicknamed Barrel Roll, but the bridge that
the fifteen aircraft tried to destroy escaped damage.
The Air Force had now embarked on its third air
war in Southeast Asia; bombing in the southern
panhandle of Laos, essentially an extension of the
fighting in South Vietnam, joined the air wars in
South Vietnam and northern Laos.
Attacks against Americans in South Vietnam
continued. On Christmas Eve 1964, the bombing of
a residence for American officers at Saigon brought
the United States again to the brink of bombing the
North. Taylor’s deputy ambassador, U. Alexis
Johnson, joined Westmoreland in urging retaliation
despite the obvious weakness of the South
Vietnamese government, but once more the
President demurred. He agreed, however, that Air
Force jets, either based in South Vietnam or rotating to airfields in Thailand, could carry out strikes
within South Vietnam (heretofore they had
attacked only in Laos), provided that Ambassador
Taylor approved each mission and the South
Vietnamese could not hit the particular target.
The administration’s reluctance to engage the
North ended on February 7, 1965, when the Viet
Cong attacked an American detachment near
Pleiku, killing eight and wounding 104 American
soldiers. Johnson removed all remaining restrictions on the use of jets in South Vietnam and ended
the requirement, dating from the time of Farm
Gate, that a South Vietnamese observer or trainee
must be on board an aircraft during combat operations. More important, when Air Force and Navy
aircraft bombed North Vietnamese military installations on the 7th and 8th, the United States at last
retaliated directly against North Vietnam for an
attack in the south. On February 10, terrorists
killed 23 Americans when they blew up a barracks
at Qui Nhon, triggering a second wave of bombing
against the North. Finally, on the 13th, President
Johnson approved an operation called Rolling
Thunder, a limited and carefully paced program of
air strikes that more closely resembled the graduated response to the presence of Soviet missiles in
Cuba than the current recommendations of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff for a vigorous and extensive
bombardment. Despite the reliance on gradual escalation, the Johnson administration struck directly
at the North in an attempt to save South Vietnam
unilaterally, regardless of the weakness or incompetence of the government at Saigon, abandoning a
policy of partnership with the South Vietnamese
that worked toward political stability and economic
progress as conditions leading to a military victory
in the South. The Air Force now had four distinct air
wars on the mainland of Southeast Asia, as the
offensive against North Vietnam took its place
alongside the attacks in South Vietnam and in
northern and southern Laos.
The air war inside South Vietnam, the oldest of
the four, changed dramatically in the spring of 1965
when American ground troops began to enter the
country. These troops would soon clash with the
recently arrived North Vietnamese regulars of the
people’s army, who had gone into action in late
December 1964, defeating the South Vietnamese at
History / SUMMER 2015
F–105Ds of the 34th
Tactical Fighter Squadron
unload their bombs on
Binh Gia. The government in Hanoi had not reacted
to the initial bombing of military targets in the
North as Johnson had expected, for instead of blinking, Ho Chi Minh continued to infiltrate men and
supplies into the South and exerted increasing pressure against the Saigon regime. Nevertheless, the
administration believed that South Vietnam could
be saved in spite of its weakness; the means of salvation would be gradual intensification of the air
war against the North and introducing American
soldiers and marines into the South.
The first American troops to land were marines
who came ashore in March; but this contingent was
soon reinforced, and the first Army unit, an airborne
brigade, arrived in May. By the end of June, the
administration had approved a force of forty-four
combat battalions for service in South Vietnam. The
troops, however, did not have a definite mission.
Ambassador Taylor believed they should protect the
airfields, which he considered to be prime targets
for the Viet Cong now that Rolling Thunder had
begun, and provide secure bases for use by revitalized South Vietnamese forces in operations against
the enemy. He argued that by adopting his enclave
strategy, the United States would remain the partner of the South Vietnamese, encouraging them
with advice and material assistance to take an
increasingly active, ultimately decisive role in preserving their independence. In contrast, Westmore land, disturbed by a succession of South Vietnamese
reverses, intended to take advantage of American
mobility and firepower to engage the North
Vietnamese and the conventional or main force
units of the Viet Cong anywhere within the nation,
creating a shield behind which the South
Vietnamese could train and organize, provide for
the security of airfields and other installations, and
History / SUMMER 2015
pacify the countryside, earning the loyalty of the
peasants. Westmoreland’s strategy, which came to
be characterized as search and destroy, had the
unfortunate effect of relegating the armed forces of
the Republic of Vietnam to at most a nominal partnership in the defeat of the communists. The general proposed to break the insurgency with
American forces, while training the South
Vietnamese to finish off any remaining opposition
and then provide for the security of their nation.
The establishment of enclaves may well have
placed the American forces permanently on the
defensive, depriving them of their mobility; but the
most telling arguments against such a strategy
were practical and immediate. There simply was no
time to invigorate the South Vietnamese. In mid1965, the communist forces seemed on the verge of
attacking from the highlands on the Laotian border
to the coast, cutting the republic in half. To meet
this danger, Westmoreland’s idea was adopted, but
its execution required air support and large numbers of troops. As the size of the American ground
forces rose steadily from 23,000 at the end of 1965
to 536,000 four years later, the mission of the Air
Force shifted from advising and training, while carrying out those combat missions beyond the capability of the South Vietnamese, to full-scale combat
in support of American and South Vietnamese
ground troops in an open, if undeclared, war against
the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.
The deepening of the American commitment in
1965 coincided with the appearance at Saigon of
stable, though not necessarily incorruptible, leadership. One of the ruling generals, Nguyen Van Thieu,
became chief of state in June, and another, Nguyen
Cao Ky, commander of the South Vietnamese Air
Force, took over as premier. The flamboyant Ky,
Early in the program (and
later on anti-crop missions), Ranch Hand C–123s
carried South Vietnamese
Air Force markings and a
South Vietnamese military
representative on board.
with his pistols and self-designed uniforms, seemed
the dominant figure, overshadowing Thieu, who
occupied a basically ceremonial office. Appearance
did not reflect reality, however, for Thieu eased Ky
into the vice presidency in 1967 and became the
only candidate for president. Four years later, he
frustrated Ky’s bid for the presidency, remaining in
office until 1975, when he fled as his nation collapsed. For almost a decade, Thieu clung to power
and, according to his enemies, amassed a fortune in
the process.
As General Westmoreland moved ahead with
his plans for search and destroy operations, he
avoided creating a combined South Vietnamese and
American military command. Such an idea did not
appeal to the Saigon government, which refused to
entrust its troops to foreigners, although at times
American advisers took over even large units, in
fact if not officially, and Westmoreland and his generals saw few, if any, South Vietnamese competent
enough to assume responsibility for American lives.
In arguing against a combined American and South
Vietnamese command arrangement, Westmoreland
warned that it would give credence to communist
claims that the South Vietnamese were puppets of
the United States, stifle South Vietnam’s ability to
develop military leaders of its own, and impede the
aggressiveness of American commanders. Consequently, the South Vietnamese retained their own
military structure in which their air force was
responsive mainly to their army.
The United States Air Force was not fully
equipped, suitably trained, nor doctrinally prepared
for the situation in Southeast Asia. The transition
from massive retaliation to flexible response and
the shift from nuclear to conventional weapons
remained incomplete. As a result, the Air Force
dropped high-explosive bombs from aircraft like the
F–105 that had been designed for nuclear war and
had to create and transport to Southeast Asia the
stocks of conventional munitions needed for the conflict. The first tasks facing the service, however,
were to set up a workable organizational structure
in the region, improve the area’s inadequate air
bases, create an efficient airlift system, and develop
equipment and techniques to support the ground
Starting with the buildup in mid-1965, the Air
Force, while continuing to conduct the four air wars,
adjusted its structure in Southeast Asia to absorb
incoming units. Temporarily deployed squadrons
became permanent in November; a wing structure
replaced the groups; and in February 1966, the
reconnaissance force in South Vietnam, which had
grown to seventy-four aircraft of various types, was
concentrated in a wing at Tan Son Nhut. In March,
the 2d Air Division became the Seventh Air Force,
its commander, Gen. William W. Momyer, serving as
Westmoreland’s deputy commander for air operations.
Commissioned in 1939 after training as an aviation cadet, General Momyer had served as a
fighter pilot in World War II, downing eight of the
enemy in combat over North Africa, Sicily, and Italy.
After commanding a fighter wing and later an air
division in Korea, he went on to a series of staff and
command assignments that culminated in his
appointment during 1964 as head of the Air
Training Command. He had the reputation of being
able to present his ideas forcefully and clearly, certainly a desirable trait in a headquarters where the
Air Force felt its views were being slighted. As commander of the Seventh Air Force, he directed operations originating in Thailand through a deputy staAIR POWER
History / SUMMER 2015
tioned at Udorn Royal Thai Air Base. The agency
through which General Momyer and his successors
controlled operations from Thailand came to be
called the Headquarters, Seventh/Thirteenth Air
Force, for Momyer’s Seventh Air Force exercised
operational control, but administrative support was
entrusted to the Thirteenth Air Force at Clark Air
Base in the Philippines. The division of authority
satisfied the pride of the Thai government, which
wanted to avoid the appearance that the American
squadrons based in the country were subordinate to
an organization in South Vietnam.
As jet aircraft took over the larger bases, Nha
Trang became the home of the helicopters and the
conventionally powered types like psychological
warfare craft and gunships. Tests during the advisory years had shown that the venerable C–47, converted into a gunship by installing in the left side of
the fuselage a multibarrel machinegun (or Gatling
gun) that was fired by the pilot, could be a deadly
weapon against ground troops, especially at night
when the modified transport could attack by the
light of its own flares. Four squadrons of O–1 Bird
Dog observation craft, three of which had just
arrived, and the four squadrons of C–123 transports
were positioned throughout the country.
The poor condition of the air bases in South
Vietnam delayed the deployment of the jet fighter
squadrons scheduled for 1965. Only Tan Son Nhut,
Bien Hoa, and Da Nang had runways that could
accommodate the jets; improvements on these airfields and construction of three new ones along the
coast at Cam Ranh Bay, Phan Rang, and Qui Nhon
began in 1965. The U.S. Military Assistance
Command, Vietnam, controlled all construction
within the country, and the acquisition of workers
and material for airfields had to vie with other construction projects. By the end of 1965, four Air Force
squadrons of F–4 Phantoms were using a temporary airstrip at Cam Ranh Bay. Progress at the
other two sites was slower, however, largely because
the assistance command was concentrating on the
ground war and giving a comparatively low priority
to Air Force facilities, although a contributing factor
may have been the desire of Admiral Sharp, the
Commander in Chief, Pacific, to make greater use of
carrier-based rather than land-based aircraft. A
squadron of Air Force Phantoms began flying from
Phan Rang in March 1966, but heavy rains damaged the field, postponing until October the arrival
of additional jets. Qui Nhon proved unsuitable as a
location for the remaining base, and in February
1966 the site was changed to Phu Cat, 15 miles to
the north. A temporary strip was opened there by
the end of the year, but the 10,000-foot runway was
not finished until March 1967.
The problems encountered in building these
three bases led the new Air Force Chief of Staff,
Gen. John P. McConnell, to secure approval for the
Air Force to build a fourth base. For the first time,
the Air Force, rather than the Army’s Corps of
Engineers, contracted for and supervised the construction of an air base, the installation at Tuy Hoa
along the South Vietnamese coast. In June 1966,
History / SUMMER 2015
the firm of Kidde and Company began work at the
site, and in the middle of November, forty-five days
ahead of schedule, the first of three F–100
squadrons occupied the field.
The increased demand for aerial transport
engendered by these deployments overwhelmed the
four C–123 squadrons in South Vietnam. Since
materiel and equipment jammed the aerial ports,
the Pacific Air Forces in April temporarily assigned
four C–130 Hercules transports from Japan and
Okinawa to help eliminate the backlog. Once in the
country, however, the newly arrived transports
found plenty to do, and, as the pace of airlift operations increased, their number grew first to thirteen
and later to thirty. Since scheduling and maintenance for the C–130s was still being performed outside South Vietnam, the Seventh Air Force found it
difficult to mesh their activities with those of its
own C–123s. General Momyer tried to integrate the
C–130s into the existing airlift system, but the
Pacific Air Forces retained control, arguing successfully that these long-range aircraft had to serve the
entire Pacific theater. On the other hand, an agreement between the Chiefs of Staff of the Army and
the Air Force in April 1966 enabled Momyer to take
over the Army’s Caribou transports, which continued to have supplying isolated outposts as their
principal mission. Air Force crews and mechanics
moved onto the Army airfields and gradually
installed their own maintenance, supply, reporting,
and operating procedures. By the beginning of 1967,
eighty C–7s, as the Caribou transports were redesignated, belonged to the Air Force, forming a new
wing with squadrons stationed at Cam Ranh Bay,
Phu Cat, and Vung Tau.
Instead of the headquarters of the assistance
command, the Joint Chiefs of Staff established priorities for fighter sorties in South Vietnam. Friendly
forces actually fighting the North Vietnamese or
Viet Cong had first call on these aircraft for close air
support. Missions to suppress enemy defenses covering landing zones selected for helicopters had second priority and escorting friendly truck convoys,
helicopters, and aerial transport came third. Finally,
if resources permitted, the fighter-bombers conducted interdiction strikes against enemy supply
depots, base areas, and troop movements. Unlike
the Army, the Air Force valued interdiction more
highly than close air support, but the military assistance command, reflecting the Army’s emphasis on
aiding troops in contact with the enemy, adopted an
accounting system that lumped both battlefield and
long-range interdiction with close air support in the
category of combat support. The Air Force was thus
frustrated in its attempts at gathering statistics to
support its arguments that interdiction should
receive a higher priority. In fact, the official priorities meant little because there was no shortage of
aerial firepower, and almost every mission flown in
South Vietnam, except for training and purely
administrative flights, somehow helped the war on
the ground.
Since the end of the Korean War, the Air Force
had given little thought to close air support and had
dismantled the tactical air control system that successfully directed strikes on the battlefields of World
War II and Korea. Rebuilt for Vietnam, the system
included operations centers at the appropriate levels of command, liaison parties assigned to ground
commanders, and forward air controllers directing
strikes from light observation craft. Early in 1966,
the Air Force, accepting the inevitable, agreed that
Army helicopters would be outside the system, and
they remained so for the rest of the war, as did the
Navy’s carrier aircraft. Attempts to train South
Vietnamese forward air controllers failed, and the
Seventh Air Force in 1965 apportioned its four
squadrons of O–1s, making one squadron of thirty
aircraft available in the tactical zone of each corps.
The number of regional air operations centers,
renamed Direct Air Support Centers, was increased
to four, one for each corps headquarters.
The war in Southeast Asia was fought according to rules of engagement that were designed to
ensure that firepower was used only to advance
American policy, whether battering the enemy in
Laos and South Vietnam, where precautions had to
be taken to protect friendly forces and spare the
local populace whose support and security were at
issue, or attacking in the North, where selective and
gradually escalating violence was intended to prod
Ho Chi Minh into calling off his plans to conquer the
South. The rules of engagement for South Vietnam
dictated at first that fighters could attack only when
directed by forward air controllers, a measure
adopted to prevent accidental killings and maimings, whether of friendly troops or of the very noncombatants whose loyalty the Saigon government
was trying to gain. The only exceptions to the
requirement for a forward air controller were certain free-fire zones occupied by the enemy and from
which noncombatants were believed to have fled.
Recruited from the ranks of fighter pilots, the forward air controllers had to adjust skills honed for
supersonic flight to the far different demands of the
slow-flying Bird Dog used to conduct visual reconnaissance and control air strikes. They learned to
mark targets with rockets, to navigate by reading
maps, and to orchestrate several flights of fighters
simultaneously approaching a target. To conduct
successful visual reconnaissance, the forward air
controllers had to become intimately familiar with
their assigned geographic areas, observing the eating, sleeping, working, and traveling routines of the
local inhabitants and learning when crops were
planted, harvested, processed, distributed, and
stored. These pilots came to recognize clues that
pointed to the enemy’s presence, even though his
forces could not be seen the sudden disappearance
of the men of a village that could signal a muster of
part-time Viet Cong guerrillas, indications that
roads or trails had been used during the night, footprints along a shoreline, shadows that revealed a
camouflaged man-made structure, and tell-tale
marks of human presence like camp fires or flocks
of birds suddenly taking flight.
Although most strikes handled by the forward
air controllers were preplanned at least twenty-four
hours in advance, a third were immediates flown in
response to emergency calls for help. The Air Force
experimented with different techniques to reduce
the time it took for jets to respond with immediate
strikes, keeping some aircraft on alert at air bases
and, whenever necessary, diverting others from preplanned missions. Responsiveness steadily
improved, and by 1966, Air Force fighters normally
were on the scene within 30 minutes of the time
they were summoned. From the standpoint of the
efficient use of resources, the Air Force preferred
preplanned sorties to immediates and encouraged
the Army and the South Vietnamese to call for
emergency strikes only when absolutely necessary.
Not only did the strike planned in advance usually
take less time from takeoff to the dropping of
bombs, the diversion of a fighter-bomber to meet an
emergency upset the orderly and economical use of
air power by opening a gap or reducing the effort
somewhere in that day’s schedule of strikes.
Moreover, aircraft diverted from one target to
another frequently arrived with less than ideal
types of bombs. Fighter-bombers or attack aircraft
carried varying combinations of 250-, 500-, and 750pound high-explosive bombs, napalm canisters,
antipersonnel bombs, rockets, and 20-mm ammunition, and emergency calls normally left no time to
change munitions. Finally, a pilot diverted to a new
and unfamiliar target might require a fairly
detailed orientation from a forward air controller or
from someone on the ground before he could attack.
When the air war in South Vietnam began to
intensify in 1965, the Air Force used standard ordnance from its limited inventory of conventional
weapons. Unfortunately, the high-explosive general
purpose bombs tended to detonate among the treetops in the triple-canopy jungle that often concealed
the enemy and had too compact a bursting radius to
efficiently kill widely dispersed troops. Researchers
at the Air Force Systems Command therefore developed new types of munitions, introducing 11 in
1965, 24 during the following year, and seven in
1967. The Air Force also developed new fuses that
allowed general purpose bombs to penetrate jungle
canopy and explode only on contact with the
ground. Cluster bombs, which dispensed hundreds
of small fragmenting bomblets, became the principal weapon against enemy personnel. One type of
cluster bomb released a nonlethal gas over a 600yard area, temporarily incapacitating those in its
path. This type, the CBU–19, proved particularly
effective in air rescue operations, since it hindered
enemy troops closing in on a downed flyer without
increasing the risk to his life. By 1968, the Air Force
had developed an arsenal of guided bombs, the socalled smart weapons. One type, for example,
sought out targets spotlighted by a laser beam,
whereas another relied on the contrast between the
target and its background to home on the desired
Despite the improvements in munitions, fighting at night and in bad weather remained a major
problem for Air Force pilots. Flares dropped by gunships and observation aircraft illuminated the batAIR POWER
History / SUMMER 2015
B–52 stands down in
IN JUNE 1965,
tlefield to some extent, but flares often failed to
ignite, and the parachutes from which they hung
frequently drifted away from the scene of the fighting. Consequently, it was difficult for forward air
controllers to achieve coordination among the flareships, the fighters, and the troops on the ground. A
great advance in accuracy resulted from the introduction in 1966 of a ground-based radar bombing
system, Combat Skyspot, which guided the pilot to
the target and told him when to drop his bombs. By
early the following year five such sites were directing pilots to unseen targets. So accurate was the
radar that the rules of engagement were relaxed to
allow pilots to use either this system or a forward
air controller, and Combat Skyspot directed about
one-quarter of the total strike missions flown during the war.
In June 1965, B–52s of the Strategic Air
Command joined tactical aircraft in supporting the
battle on the ground, greatly increasing the aerial
firepower available for the war. Thirty of the big
bombers, specially fitted with external bomb racks,
had been standing by at Guam since the attacks on
the Maddox and C. Turner Joy in the event the air
campaign proposed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff was
carried out and the aircraft had to deliver conventional attacks in North Vietnam. When the air war
against the North began, Air Force fighter-bombers
and the Navy’s carrier aircraft conducted the
strikes, and the B–52s remained idle. General
Westmoreland, looking for more efficient means of
large-scale bombing, asked that these bombers hit
the enemy in South Vietnam. During the remainder
of the year, the B–52s flew more than 1,500 sorties
in the South, raining vast tonnages of high explosives on area targets like troop concentrations,
bases, and supply dumps. These Arc Light strikes
began with 30-plane missions, but the number of
aircraft in each formation declined as the frequency
of operations increased. The first sorties against targets in southern Laos did not take place until
December 1965, and the following April the B–52s
dropped their first bombs on North Vietnam. The
History / SUMMER 2015
B–52s began to use the Combat Skyspot system in
July 1966; by the end of the year, it was the huge
bombers’ primary aiming method. The number of
sorties in the South increased to 4,290 in 1966 and
to 6,611 and 15,505, respectively, in the following
two years. Throughout this period, 75 percent of the
Arc Light missions struck South Vietnam, another
20 percent hit southern Laos, and five percent
bombed logistic targets in North Vietnam like the
mountain passes that funneled men and cargo into
southern Laos en route to South Vietnam.
Although Westmoreland had a high opinion of
Arc Light, not all Air Force commanders shared his
enthusiasm. To some, using B–52s for essentially
tactical purposes diverted them from their principal
mission of strategic deterrence. Others, notably
General Momyer, believed that the bombers were
being employed indiscriminately and inefficiently.
Since intelligence of the enemy’s formations and
logistic depots in South Vietnam was not always
reliable, many missions seemed to be wasted. To
prevent this wastefulness, Momyer maintained that
B–52 strikes should be restricted to clearly identified targets. He also thought his Seventh Air Force
should control the bombers rather than the Joint
Chiefs of Staff and the Strategic Air Command
through the military assistance command. Momyer
felt that, without actual control of the bombers, he
was responsible for coordinating his tactical aircraft
with the B–52s even though he did not have sufficient authority or information to do so. Since the
B–52s were flying tactical missions, usually longrange interdiction but occasionally the support of
outposts under attack, the existing command structure weakened the single management of tactical
aviation, a principle that he strongly supported, and
resulted, as he saw it, in a less than efficient operation.
Westmoreland’s zeal for Arc Light strikes
remained undiminished, despite Air Force objections and a paucity of measurable results. Because
of the nature of the targets, many only suspected
rather than verified concentrations of men or supplies, he could not calculate the effect on the enemy
to determine that a certain level of effort met his
needs. As the number of known and suspected targets proliferated, he requested more and more B–52
missions. The authorized monthly sortie rate rose to
450 by March 1966, to 650 in November, and to 800
by February of the following year. When he asked
for a further increase to 1,200 in early 1967, the
Strategic Air Command became concerned with the
impact on its worldwide nuclear forces. To avoid
sending more bombers to the theater, some of those
already in the western Pacific moved to U–Tapao,
Thailand, closer to the battleground than Andersen
Air Force Base on Guam, reducing the distance to
the Arc Light targets and enabling the same number of B–52s to fly a greater number of sorties. By
the middle of 1968, 56 bombers were flying from
Guam and 28 from Guam, supported by KC–135
tankers operating from U–Tapao and Andersen, as
well as from bases on Okinawa and Taiwan. Despite
the greater utilization of the Thailand-based
An AC–47 gunship.
bombers, the Strategic Air Command worried about
the consequences of rotating B–52s between the
United States and the distant Pacific. With more
bombers dropping conventional bombs in Southeast
Asia, fewer were available to carry out the single
integrated operational plan. To overcome this deficiency, planners sometimes had to increase the
number of nuclear targets assigned to an individual
A myriad of types of aircraft other than heavy
bombers and fighter-bombers supported the ground
war, among them transports equipped for spraying,
psychological warfare craft that dropped leaflets or
broadcasted from loudspeakers, transports converted into gunships, and helicopters. A squadron of
fourteen gunships, designated AC–47s, was activated late in 1965; and early in the following year
the aircraft were flying out of Tan Son Nhut, Bien
Hoa, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Binh Thuy, and Pleiku.
For three years the AC–47s participated in all types
of combat support missions, defending fortified villages and outposts against ground assaults, attacking enemy soldiers locked in combat with friendly
troops, escorting road convoys, dropping flares for
attacking fighters, flying armed reconnaissance,
interdicting the movement of enemy forces and supplies, and even directing air strikes. By the end of
1968, however, these earliest gunships were giving
way to more heavily armed types like the AC–119,
primarily used in South Vietnam, and the AC–130,
principally for interdiction in southern Laos.
Although the Army flew the vast majority of
the helicopters in South Vietnam, the Air Force used
a few helicopters for search and rescue missions and
for special operations. Before 1965, the Air Force
had sent several Kaman HH–43s to South Vietnam
and Thailand, but their relatively short range
restricted them mostly to local base rescue. In a typical operation of that era, T–28s escorted the helicopters and a Grumman HU–16 amphibian served
as an airborne command post and supervised the
rescue. The intensification of the air war in 1965
brought a dramatic increase in the number of
downed airmen; indeed, Air Force helicopters made
93 rescues in the second half of the year compared
to 29 during the first six months. A permanent
search and rescue center was formed at Tan Son
Nhut, and newer, longer range helicopters Sikorsky
HH–3s, nicknamed Jolly Green Giants began flying
from that base and from Bien Hoa, Da Nang,
Pleiku, and Binh Thuy, as well from four airfields in
Thailand. Transport aircraft, initially C–54s, but
later C–130s, took over on-the-scene control from
the HU–16s. As A–1s replaced the T–28s, they
assumed the role of escorting the rescue helicopters.
By 1967 the Air Force had 50 aircraft dedicated to
rescue operations in Southeast Asia. Efficiency
improved as the numbers increased; for example,
successful experiments with aerial refueling from
specially equipped C–130s extended the range of
the HH–3s, enabling them to make sustained
searches and to reach downed airmen who otherwise would have been dependent on their own survival skills. Late in 1967, larger and more powerful
helicopters, Sikorsky HH–53s, began replacing the
older Jolly Green Giants. By the end of 1968, over
1,500 persons, 45 percent of them downed airmen,
had been rescued from the jungle or the sea.
Following their deployment in 1965, Air Force
units first helped hold the enemy at bay as other
American forces entered the country; by the early
months of 1968, the Air Force had participated in 75
large-scale ground operations and hundreds of
smaller battles. The first major clash between
American soldiers and North Vietnamese regulars
occurred in mid-November 1965, when the newly
arrived 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) located an
enemy formation as it swept through the Ia Drang
Valley. During the battle, American soldiers
inflicted severe casualties and forced the survivors
History / SUMMER 2015
to retreat across the border into Cambodia. During
the most savage of the fighting, the Air Force conducted 330 sorties to disrupt counterattacks and
help dislodge the North Vietnamese; all told, tactical aircraft flew 753 sorties during a month of
searching out and attacking the enemy and B–52s
almost a hundred. However, airlift by the Air Force
proved as critical as aerial firepower, for the division
could not resupply itself with its own aircraft exclusively, unless it diverted helicopters to the task of
hauling cargo from depots in the rear to the forward
supply points. Air Force C–123s and C–130s
allowed Army aviators to redeploy, reinforce, and
supply the battalions fighting in the Ia Drang
Valley by delivering fuel and ammunition to the
division’s dumps, where the cargo was transferred
to helicopters for the flight into the valley. Had the
Air Force transports been unable to maintain the
level of supplies, the operation might well have
ground to a halt; instead, the fighting continued
until the North Vietnamese fled from the battleground. In its first real test, the strategy of search
and destroy seemed to work.
The struggle in the Ia Drang Valley taught different and sometimes conflicting lessons to the
major participants. To the headquarters of the military assistance command, a month of searching and
a few days of fighting had produced a great victory;
indeed, the disparity in casualties, an estimated ten
North Vietnamese killed for every American,
seemed to demonstrate that the U.S. Army could
fight a successful war of attrition, making use of
mobility and firepower to exhaust a comparatively
primitive foe. Believers in airmobility hailed the
campaign as a vindication of that concept, although
they were concerned that the helicopter force, and
the maintenance and logistics base supporting it,
needed strengthening to deal with a likely proliferation of assaults by troops landed, supplied, given
fire support, reinforced, and finally withdrawn by
helicopter. The headquarters of the Seventh Air
Force viewed the Ia Drang action as proof that airmobile forces, considering the number of helicopters
available and their limitations in firepower and carrying capacity, needed vigorous support from the
command’s transports and fighter-bombers and
from B–52s, as well. The leadership of North
Vietnam, although taken aback by the speed and
fury of the attack into the Ia Drang Valley, remained
determined to fight on, if necessary for twenty
years. Field commanders had reflected this determination by employing tactics designed to neutralize air strikes by hugging American positions so
that strafing or bombing endangered friend as well
as enemy.
All of these views reflected some facet of the
truth: the American troops, although some small
units had barely escaped annihilation, had outfought the enemy; helicopters and the men to fly
them would soon be in short supply; the helicopter
was a remarkable weapon—in one instance vaulting American soldiers over an ambush the enemy
had prepared on a road—but it lacked the striking
power and capacity of an airplane; and finally the
History / SUMMER 2015
airmobile division, like every other Army formation,
required support from the Air Force, and in subsequent operations there normally was close cooperation between Army and Air Force planners. Finally,
the North Vietnamese realized that neither determination alone nor reactive tactics could bring swift
victory on the field of battle; like the assistance command at Saigon, the communist leaders in Hanoi
were beginning to think in terms of a war of attrition. Perhaps the major lesson taught by the battle
in the Ia Drang Valley was that the war would be
long and bitter.
As 1965 drew to a close, three distinct tactical
air control systems existed side-by-side in South
Vietnam, one operated by the Air Force with nominal participation by the South Vietnamese, one by
the Army for its helicopters and other aircraft, and
the third by the Marine Corps. The system used by
the marines, designed initially for amphibious operations in which air strikes complemented naval
gunfire during the landing and the exploitation of
the beachhead, ensured a prompt response by
Marine Corps airmen to requests from marines on
the ground (and, as recently as the Korean War,
from Army ground troops as well). The Marine
Corps mechanism of air control functioned
smoothly, the result of training that produced a genuine air-ground team; the competence of Marine
aviators to support marines on the ground was not
in doubt. General Westmoreland, however, had
reservations about the ability of the Marine Corps
system to support rapidly unfolding search and
destroy missions that might involve swift movement on the ground and require cooperation with
the Air Force, with the Army and its air arm, and
with South Vietnamese forces.
During Operation Harvest Moon in December
1965, Westmoreland became concerned when
crowded air space and a breakdown of communication with controllers kept Marine Corps fighters circling helplessly, preventing a South Vietnamese
unit from receiving the air support it had requested.
Fortunately, the South Vietnamese managed to
reach Air Force forward air controllers assigned to
the same area. Even though these Air Force officers
had not attended the briefings preceding the operation and were unfamiliar with call signs, radio frequencies, and the location of ground troops, they
quickly became oriented and soon organized the
necessary air strikes. During this operation, Air
Force controllers working their assigned areas complained of intrusions by Marine Corps aircraft. The
marines believed that situations like these could be
avoided simply by more thorough planning before
an operation, but Westmoreland decided that the
fault lay in the existence of separate Air Force and
Marine Corps control mechanisms. He therefore
told his air commander, General Momyer, to find a
way to incorporate Marine Corps aviation in the Air
Force tactical air control system without arousing
controversy. The quest took two years and produced
just the kind of interservice argument that
Westmoreland hoped to avoid.
Having prevented an enemy takeover of South
Vietnam in 1965, the assistance command went on
the offensive in 1966. Operating behind a thin
screen of border outposts designed to monitor and to
some extent impede infiltration, American units,
assisted by South Vietnamese troops, used their
mobility and firepower to destroy the enemy’s bases,
kill his soldiers, and shatter his military formations,
although not to seize and hold territory. Search and
destroy operations of this sort were intended to
enable the South Vietnamese to operate more freely
against essentially guerrilla forces and extend government control into the countryside. American success depended on winning a war of attrition
designed to wear down the organized North
Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces; success for the
South Vietnamese would stem from providing security and services to an increasing segment of the
Beginning in January 1966, in the largest
search and destroy operation of the war to that
time, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), a South
Vietnamese division, and a South Korean battalion
spent six weeks dislodging the enemy from
entrenched coastal positions between Qui Nhon and
Quang Ngai in the II Corps area 300 miles north of
Saigon. Air Force C–130s flew cargo into a forward
airfield with access to the several battlefields of the
campaign. Over 600 sorties by fighter-bombers
cleared the way for the American advance and
helped extricate the ground forces from ambushes
and other forms of counterattack. Several thousand
of the enemy died while being driven from the rich
rice-growing lowlands.
Bad weather always posed problems for the
fighter-bombers, and the Viet Cong and North
Vietnamese took advantage of it. Early in March
1966 the enemy overran a special forces camp in the
A Shau Valley of I Corps, two miles from the
Laotian border, a part of the screen that detected
and harried North Vietnamese infiltration. Making
use of cloud cover that imposed a 200-foot ceiling
and largely frustrated Air Force attempts to provide
close air support, the enemy seized the camp. This
was a serious loss, for the valley became a logistics
base with roads connecting it to the Ho Chi Minh
Trail across the border. Despite occasional
American or South Vietnamese forays in later
years, the A Shau Valley remained an important
conduit for reinforcements and supplies sent from
the North.
When the seasonal rains turned the Laotian
trails to mud in June 1966, the communists shifted
their infiltration effort to the demilitarized zone,
where good weather had dried the roads. The
enemy’s apparent strategy was to pour troops into
the northern provinces of South Vietnam to draw
American forces northward and clear the way for
attacks farther to the south. Instead of rushing
headlong toward the demilitarized zone as the
enemy seemed to expect, Westmoreland used his
ground forces against the North Vietnamese units
that had entered the country and unleashed air
power against the routes of supply and infiltration.
During the ground portion of the campaign, called
Operation Hastings and conducted between July 15
and August 3, the Air Force supported the South
Vietnamese Army, while Marine Corps airmen
assisted marines on the ground, an arrangement
that on this occasion worked reasonably well
because the ground forces were located within readily definable areas. Aside from the occasional emergency call from marines for Air Force strikes and a
collision between a Marine Corps helicopter and an
Air Force observation craft, there were few problems of coordination between the two air arms.
North of the area of Operation Hastings,
directly above the militarized zone, the Air Force
opened an interdiction campaign called Tally Ho on
July 20. Westmoreland, to avoid the problems of
coordinating both Air Force and Marine Corps aircraft in a small area, accepted Momyer’s recommendation that he turn down an offer by the
marines to participate in this latest aerial effort. By
early August, Marine Corps ground units had driven the enemy back into the demilitarized zone
while tactical aircraft of the Air Force continued to
strike lines of supply and communication. B–52s
joined the interdiction campaign in mid-September,
multiplying the firepower of the fighter-bombers,
which kept harassing the North Vietnamese until
November, when the return of the seasonal rains to
this region caused the enemy to shift his activity to
the infiltration routes of southern Laos. The aerial
action in Tally Ho demonstrated that the light O–1
observation craft could not be used to direct strikes
in the heavily defended coastal plain, and they were
shifted to the western mountains where antiaircraft
guns were less numerous. On the plain, Air Force
fighter-bombers conducted armed reconnaissance,
attacking the enemy without benefit of forward air
controllers until jet fighters were substituted for the
O–1s in Tally Ho and similarly defended areas.
During the interdiction campaign, Marine artillery
firing long-range missions sometimes interfered
with forward air controllers conducting visual
reconnaissance or directing strikes. For this reason,
missions occasionally were canceled, as when an Air
Force controller, bracketed by artillery shells above
and below his aircraft, hastily departed from the
region. Obviously, coordination between the Air
Force and the Marine Corps gunners was less than
The southward shift of the main action during
November 1966 triggered Operation Attleboro in an
area north of Saigon. For several years the enemy
had built up his forces near the capital and had created two heavily fortified military complexes, War
Zones C and D, some 40 miles north of the city.
Despite repeated attacks, the North Vietnamese
and Viet Cong clung to these redoubts; not even a
savage pounding by B–52s in 1965 could dislodge
them. Several ground operations in 1966 Silver City
in March, Birmingham in April, and El Paso II in
June penetrated the base areas and cleared at least
portions of them, but each time the enemy returned
in strength to rebuild bunkers and reestablish the
headquarters. On November 1, two American divisions entered the zones and, assisted by more than
History / SUMMER 2015
A B–52 drops a bunch of
bombs over Vietnam.
1,700 tactical strikes and 225 Arc Light sorties,
drove the communists back across the Cambodian
border. In three weeks of vicious fighting, Air Force
transports delivered more than 11,000 troops and
9,000 tons of cargo.
In these major battles and scores of smaller
skirmishes during 1966, Air Force fighter-bombers
flew over 74,000 sorties and B–52s flew 4,500.
Airlift units conducted 13,600 sorties, reconnaissance 59,000, forward air controllers 27,500, and Air
Force helicopters flew 13,500 sorties carrying passengers and cargo, saving downed airmen, and evacuating the wounded.
The war in South Vietnam during 1967 followed the pattern of the previous year’s fighting.
The enemy returned from his sanctuary in
Cambodia, regrouped, and by February was back to
previous strength in War Zone C and an adjacent
stronghold, the Iron Triangle. A sweep of the Iron
Triangle by two American divisions, called
Operation Cedar Falls, took place that month,
accompanied by some 1,100 tactical air strikes and
126 sorties by B–52s. Although the operation
destroyed the huge network of bases, tunnels, supply dumps, and training camps that constituted the
Iron Triangle, the defenders retreated westward
into War Zone C and the Americans pursued.
Operation Junction City, essentially a follow-on
to Cedar Falls, took place between February and
May when the two divisions that had invaded the
Iron Triangle pushed on into War Zone C, assisted
by Air Force tactical fighters, B–52s, and transports.
The pursuit began with C–130s dropping 845
American parachute troops at the rear of the enemy
to seal off the escape routes to Cambodia. The
advance continued, first through the central and
western parts of the zone and then to the east, capturing supplies, destroying bunkers, and sealing
History / SUMMER 2015
caves. For the first time in the war, B–52s departed
from their usual role of area bombing and flew
planned missions in support of troops engaged with
the enemy. In addition to the rain of bombs from
these big aircraft, the defenders reeled under the
effect of napalm, high explosives, rockets, and cluster bombs dropped during the 5,000-odd sorties
flown by F–100s, B–57s, F–4s, and the recently
introduced F–5s, which the Air Force flew extensively in 1965 and 1966 before turning them over to
the South Vietnamese in 1967. More than 2,000 sorties by Air Force transports provided the assault
troops with supplies and reinforcements throughout an operation that was believed to have
destroyed a third of a North Vietnamese division
and driven the survivors eastward into War Zone D.
Since the objective of the offensive was attrition
rather than the capture of territory, the Americans
withdrew, and a new enemy division soon reentered
the area and began restoring the defenses.
When the seasons changed in the spring, the
fighting again shifted to the drier demilitarized
zone where the North Vietnamese were resuming
their infiltration. Marine Corps units in I Corps
moved northward toward the zone, and Army troops
took their place. In April C–130s airlifted 3,500 men
and 4,000 tons of equipment of the Army’s 196th
Light Infantry Brigade from Tay Ninh to Chu Lai.
At the same time, C–123s and C–130s flew food and
ammunition into the northwestern outpost at Khe
Sanh, where two Marine battalions battled the
enemy in the surrounding hills. Defeated in the
west at Khe Sanh, the North Vietnamese then
struck to the east, harassing the Marine camp at
Con Thien astride a main infiltration route just two
miles south of the demilitarized zone. An 11-day
Marine attack into the zone, Operation Hickory and
its subsidiaries, again demonstrated, in the view of
A LAPES extraction from a
C–130 at Khe Sanh.
the Air Force, the need for stricter control over participating air units. Initial confusion whether the
Air Force or the marines would control air strikes in
the upper half of the demilitarized zone deprived
the ground forces of interdiction support for three
days, although the close-in strikes delivered by
Marine aviators were unaffected.
Besides supporting Operation Hickory, the Air
Force stepped up its interdiction of enemy movement in the Tally Ho area. In June 1967, forward air
controllers successfully used jet fighters for the first
time. Because the fiercely defended coastal strip
had become too dangerous for the vulnerable O–1s,
the controllers changed to two-seat F–100Fs carrying an observer and a pilot. In July and August,
communist artillery batteries within the demilitarized zone intensified the bombardment of Marine
outposts, especially on Con Thien, and in September
a major air campaign, Operation Neutralize, was
directed against these guns. While the marines
attacked by air and ground to keep the enemy off
balance, Air Force fighter-bombers and B–52s went
after the North Vietnamese artillery. Again, the
coordination of two air organizations operating in a
compact area proved difficult; some Air Force forward air controllers had to dodge Marine aircraft
and counterbattery fire, and Marine artillerymen
were compelled to withhold their fire, once for 24
hours, while the Air Force bombed targets inside the
Neutralize area. The assignment of Air Force liaison
officers to the control center operated by the Marine
Corps resolved the problem, but this solution fell
short of General Momyer’s goal of centralizing control over the tactical aircraft of the Air Force and the
Marine Corps. Whatever its shortcomings,
Operation Neutralize was credited with destroying
146 enemy guns and damaging 183 others. The
number of incoming rounds directed at Con Thien
and other nearby outposts decreased significantly
from 7,400 in September to 3,600 the following
month, when the assistance command announced
that the enemy’s siege of Con Thien had ended.
Although the threat from the demilitarized
zone abated, the North Vietnamese kept up their
pressure along the borders of II and III Corps to
divert attention, as events would prove, from the
population centers of South Vietnam. Attacks during the remainder of 1967 against border outposts
at Song Be, Loc Ninh, Bo Duc, and Dak To were
repulsed because of close cooperation between air
and ground. Throughout the year Air Force fighterbombers flew more than 122,000 sorties and the
B–52s a total of 6,600, increases of 48,000 and
2,100, respectively, over
Reconnaissance aircraft flew roughly 94,000 missions, and 373,000 airlift sorties delivered men and
supplies to the battle areas. Forward air controllers
flew 43,600 sorties in directing fighter strikes, and
other aircraft released flares, leaflets, and defoliants
during more than 26,000 flights. Air Force helicopters performed 13,400 tasks, several of which
might occur on a single sortie, while retrieving
downed airmen, evacuating casualties, or carrying
men and cargo.
The most serious of the border threats surfaced
early in 1968 against the Marine outpost at Khe
Sanh. Unlike the earlier siege by artillery fire at
Con Thien, the marines at Khe Sanh were encircled
by North Vietnamese troops, and sufficient forces
were not available to break through to the garrison.
Consequently, General Westmoreland decided to
use air power to disrupt an anticipated attack by
the two enemy divisions that had massed around
the outpost. Near the end of January, he launched a
10-week air campaign, Operation Niagara, so called
because the torrent of explosives dropping from the
sky was intended to resemble in volume the waters
of those celebrated falls. Before the siege of Khe
Sanh was broken at the end of March, Air Force,
Marine Corps, and Navy aircraft flew some 24,000
tactical sorties against the forces surrounding the
base. Flying 2,500 sorties by day and night, B–52s
dropped almost 60,000 tons of bombs on trenches
and artillery positions. Air Force transports landed
4,300 tons of supplies and 2,700 troops at the Khe
Sanh airstrip, despite hostile mortar and artillery
fire, and parachuted some 8,000 tons of cargo to the
As had happened previously when sorties by
different services had to be coordinated in a compact area, the control mechanism broke down.
Midway through the campaign, General
Westmoreland designated General Momyer as the
single manager of all tactical aircraft in South
Vietnam, both Marine and Air Force, a decision that
Admiral Sharp promptly approved. Despite the title
of single manager, Momyer’s authority was not
absolute, for the aircraft of the Army and those
operating from the Navy’s carriers were excluded,
and the marines could launch their own aircraft in
response to emergencies that their ground units
might encounter. This one concession to its needs
did not satisfy the Marine Corps, which interpreted
the action as a dismemberment of its air-ground
team and carried the resulting protest all the way to
President Johnson, who refused to overrule his commander in Vietnam. Although this arrangement
History / SUMMER 2015
went into effect too late to have any impact on
Operation Niagara, it seemed to represent a major
step toward the centralization of air power under
the control of the commander of the Seventh Air
Force. Before the year ended, however, the single
manager system was compromised by the release of
a specific number of sorties to the marines, initially
for missions like escorting helicopters but ultimately to use as they saw fit.
While the siege of Khe Sanh continued, other
communist forces moved largely undetected into
position and attacked five major cities, thirty-six
provincial capitals, twenty-three airfields, and
many district capitals and hamlets. Taking advantage of the annual Tet holidays early in February,
when most South Vietnamese soldiers were on
leave to celebrate the lunar new year, the enemy
struck a stunning blow. The purpose may have been
to provoke a popular uprising throughout the
South, in which case the offensive failed. The purpose, however, may have been to embarrass the
American political and military leadership and
undermine public support in the United States for
prosecuting an increasingly costly war, in which
case the offensive succeeded. Only at Hue in northern South Vietnam did the attackers cling to their
objectives for an extended period, and even there
the city was retaken, but only after twenty-five days
of savage fighting. Its recapture revealed the mass
graves of local inhabitants murdered by the communist forces in acts of revenge or calculated terrorism that won no converts to their cause. At Hue
and elsewhere, Air Force fighter-bombers launched
carefully controlled strikes, but in crowded urban
areas, collateral damage proved unavoidable,
resulting in civilian casualties and perhaps 600,000
new refugees that strained the resources of the
Saigon government. Outside the towns and cities,
the aircraft bombed the enemy’s storage dumps and
troop concentrations and provided battlefield interdiction and close air support for the units fighting
the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attackers.
Communist losses may have totaled 45,000, more
than half of the regulars and guerrillas who participated in the offensive.
Costly though it was to the communists, the Tet
offensive marked the point where the tide of events
clearly turned in their favor, for the unexpectedly
savage attack caused the United States to reexamine its partnership with the South Vietnamese and
the dominant role it had assumed in a war to preserve the independence of South Vietnam. Although
repulsed on the battlefield, the attackers by their
very boldness lent substance to doubts that already
had surfaced as the American people, who were
beginning to feel the impact of a distant war, wondered whether the results were worth the sacrifices.
The struggle, which cost almost $33 billion annually, had fueled inflation and bloated the national
debt. The number of Americans killed in action during the conflict approached 20,000, with almost half
those deaths in 1967. Opposition to the draft, which
had supplied many of the dead, was increasing. In
October 1967, a week-long demonstration against
History / SUMMER 2015
the war singled out offices of the Selective Service
System in various cities and culminated in large
antiwar rallies at the Lincoln Memorial and the
Pentagon. Although parades and mass meetings in
support of the war and its objectives took place at
New York City and elsewhere, numbers, determination, and media coverage seemed to favor the opposition. A segment of the populace, especially young
people subject to the draft, had lost confidence in the
assurances by the nation’s leaders that the war was
being won and that the continued independence of
South Vietnam was a worthwhile objective.
Particularly unfortunate, in view of the Tet offensive, were the optimistic statements made by
General Westmoreland when he visited Washington
in mid-November and reported publicly on the
progress of the war. He described the situation in
South Vietnam as very encouraging and declared
that the United States was winning the war of attrition, only to have his words challenged by the sudden and widespread attacks.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen.
Earle G. Wheeler of the Army, saw the Tet offensive
not as a blow to public confidence or to the morale
of the Johnson administration but as an opportunity to restore the nation’s strategic reserve of military manpower. He arranged for Westmoreland to
call for an additional 206,000 troops, a request that
relied for justification on the gloomiest possible
interpretation of recent events. To provide such a
force required a large-scale mobilization of the
reserve components, which the President wanted to
avoid. Such a major mobilization would have
aroused the anger of those who opposed the war or
questioned its importance, but would not have
affected the military situation in South Vietnam,
where conditions were by no means grave enough to
require reinforcement on this scale. The bulk of the
troops would have formed a reserve in the United
States for possible emergencies outside Southeast
Asia. News of the request reached the public, which
assumed that all the additional men were destined
for South Vietnam, further eroding of confidence in
the military and political leadership and in the
importance and eventual outcome of the war.
Instead of giving Westmoreland what he sought
and mobilizing the reserve, President Johnson
called on a group of trusted advisers, his so-called
“Wise Men,” to review the nation’s efforts in
Southeast Asia and make recommendations for the
future. The distinguished panel concluded that pursuing the existing policy would reinforce failure. As
a result, the President approved a final token
increase in Westmoreland’s forces, bowed to the
growing public opposition to the war by declaring
that he would not seek reelection, and approached
the task of extricating the United States from a conflict that it had taken over not quite three years earlier. In mid-1968, American policy began to change.
Although the ultimate objective remained an independent South Vietnam, the United States would
strengthen the South Vietnamese, gradually disengage from combat, and in effect turn the war over to
its ally.
Book Reviews
Operation Thunderclap and the Black
March: Two World War II Stories from
the Unstoppable 91st Bomb Group. By
Richard Allison. Havertown Penn.: Casemate, 2014. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp.240. $34.95 ISBN: 978-161200-265-1 (digital 978-1-61200-266-8)
In 2008, Addison Bartush, a co-pilot
on 31 missions with the 91st Bomb Group
in 1944 and 1945, agreed to share his
memories of that tumultuous period in his
life with Richard Allison, a business associate and friend. Fortunately, Bartush had
meticulously saved the letters he received
from the States along with other items
documenting his role bombing Germany.
Bartush also suggested interviewing
another crewmember, Paul Lynch, who
had survived the war after capture by the
Based on these interviews and extensive research, this first-time author, a former naval officer and retired attorney, has
brought to life the final year’s operations of
the 91st while detailing the ordeal of captivity experienced by thousands of captured American airmen. Over 13 chapters
and an epilogue, he tells these two veterans’ stories in vivid detail. At the same
time, he avoids, for the most part, contrived dialogue to enhance the narrative.
This story, like most on military air
operations, begins with training and, in
this case, formation of what would become
known as the Bishop crew, after pilot Dave
Arriving at Bassingbourne Airfield,
about a dozen miles southwest of
Cambridge, England, in November, 1944,
the Bishop crew flew combat missions by
the end of the month. However, Bartush
filled in with another crew a day earlier
and missed the mission of November 26 in
which German fighters downed the
Bishop aircraft, Wild Hare.
With Bartush flying and Lynch
imprisoned, Allison alternates chapters
describing their experiences. Regarding
Bartush, he examines the Combined
Bomber Offensive during the last year of
the war in Europe. He emphasizes the
Allies’ decision to use American aircraft to
engage in daytime area bombing as
opposed to “precision” attacks. The
destruction of Dresden is once again rolled
out as the primary example.
As the Russians advanced into
Poland, the Nazis chose to evacuate Allied
prisoners from several camps, herding
them on foot into Germany. Lynch was
among more than 8,000 prisoners held in
Stulag Luft IV in the Pomeranian region
of Poland who endured what became
known as the “Black March,” a 500-mile
trek in sometimes blizzard-like conditions
with limited food and water. Hundreds
perished; the average survivor lost about
one third of his body weight during captivity.
Ultimately, the Russians would catch
up to the prisoners as the Third Reich collapsed. At this point, Allison discusses the
implications of the Yalta Conference and
the forced repatriation of all prisoners as
part of the deal that resulted in Soviet
Premier Joseph Stalin declaring war on
Japan three months after the formal surrender of Germany.
Allison has attempted to tell two complementary stories. For the most part, he
has succeeded. Discussion of the “big picture” themes (area or city bombing by the
U.S. Army Air Forces in the final year of
the war and the forced repatriation of prisoners) seems almost distracting. A map
showing the route of the “Black March”
would have been most helpful. The epilogue in which Allison introduces himself
in the first person sharing additional
interviews with Bartush and Lynch comes
across as a bit self-serving and somewhat
Lt. Col. Steven D. Ellis, USAFR (Ret.),
docent, Museum of Flight, Seattle.
An Air Fighter’s Scrapbook. By Ira
Jones. Philadelphia: Casemate, 2014. Photographs. Notes. Appendix. Pp. 356. $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-61200-150-0 & Jagdstaffel
356: The Story of a German Fighter
Squadron. By Elisabeth M. Kähnert.
Philadelphia: Casemate, 2014. Photographs. Pp. 126. $29.95 ISBN: 978-161200-144-9 & Night Raiders of the Air:
Being the Experiences of a Night
Flying Pilot, Who Raided Hunland on
Many Dark Nights During the War. By
A. R. Kingsford. Philadelphia: Casemate,
2014. Photographs. Pp. 168. $29.95.
Reissued to coincide with the beginning of centennial commemorations for
the First World War, these three works
offer a useful perspective on aviation in
the so-called “Great War.” I highly recommended the books by Jones and Kingsford.
The third, well, not so much.
Ira “Taffy” Jones was one of Britain’s
most aggressive and successful fighter
pilots of the First World War and a
squadron-mate and friend (and biographer) of the legendary Edward “Mick”
Mannock, the highest-scoring British ace
of the war. An Air Fighter’s Scrapbook,
first published in 1938 after its author
had retired from the Royal Air Force (he
was recalled to duty for the Second World
War), consists of a series of reflections and
anecdotes conveying his impressions and
experiences of flying in the war and afterwards and his opinions of friend and foe.
Readers will learn much from the cockpitperspective he offers, keeping in mind
that the first air war was one that was
marked by, at times, horrific loss rates
from combat, lack of appropriate training,
and mechanical unreliability. As well, his
reflections on his postwar service (which
included flying in the British intervention
in Russia against the Bolsheviks) are illuminating. Jones’ text is considerably illuminated by a series of notes added by
Norman Franks, a noted historian of the
first air war.
A. R. Kingsford’s Night Raiders of the
Air is a riveting memoir of a night
bomber pilot, flying a night-attack derivative of the Royal Aircraft Factory F.E. 2
two-seat pusher fighter. “Fees” quickly
became obsolescent for daytime fighter
operations and were turned to both battlefield attack and, then, night raiding.
While fighter pilot memoirs from the
Great War abound, memoirs of other airmen are far less common. Thus, this is a
most welcome work
Elisabeth Kähnert’s Jagdstaffel 356
(Fighter Squadron 356), purported to be
based on the thinly-disguised wartime
experiences of a German pilot, is actually
a work of fiction, not established fact,
though it does contain a nice selection of
evocative photographs of German aviators, their aircraft, and air operations.
Aviation novels are a mixed bag, particularly those of the First World War. If one
wishes to read a good aviation novel
about the Great War, there are better
works to choose from than this: Charles
Nordhoff and James Norman Hall’s
Falcons of France; Jack D. Hunter’s The
Blue Max; Ernest K. Gann’s In the
Company of Eagles; and, sans pareil, V.
M. Yeates’ brilliant Winged Victory, based
on his personal experiences as a wartime
pilot, first published in 1934, and reissued by Grub Street in 2013.
However, my personal preference is
the memoirs of the airmen, many of which
Rickenbacker’s Fighting the Flying Circus,
Ernst Udet’s My Flying Life, Lewis’
Sagittarius Rising, Harold Hartney’s Up
and At ‘Em!, Arthur Gould Lee’s No
Parachute, and Gordon Taylor’s The Sky
Beyond. These and many others contain
enough excitement to fill dozens of novels,
and readers will learn much from them as
Overall, Casemate is to be congratulated for seeing fit to bring these works to
public view, and one hopes that it will publish others, further illuminating an air war
that still fascinates both with the scale of
History / SUMMER 2015
its combat operations and with its influence on subsequent warfare.
Dr. Richard P Hallion, Research Associate
in Aeronautics, National Air and Space
World Order. By Henry Kissinger. New
York: Penguin Books, 2014. Maps. Index.
Notes. Pp. 420. $36.00 ISBN: 978-1-59420614-6
Once again, Henry Kissinger, now 91
years old, has written a lucid, well-structured, very readable and informed work.
This one analyzes international systems
that have served as a basis for world order
and examines the various challenges
ahead for a workable system. The genesis
of this book is in the need to address the
ultimate international problem today—
the crisis in the concept of world order.
In just under 400 pages, Kissinger
takes the reader from the Westphalian
system established in 1648 to the current
Islamist crisis, addressing the various concepts of world order that have influenced
international relations in the modern era
in Europe, Asia, and America. He especially focuses on the currently dominant
vision of world order—the Westphalian
system—which was conceived in response
to a horrific 30-year-long war in central
Europe, to establish a balance of power
and reasonable harmony between states.
It did so by institutionalizing an international order on the basis of agreed rules
and limits and based on a multiplicity of
powers rather than the dominance of a
single country. Thus, a balance of power
became the key to prevention or mitigation of conflict.
Following Napoleon’s disruption of
the system, the Congress of Vienna
restored a balance of power, bringing 100
years of relative peace to Europe with the
exceptions of bilateral and limited wars
leading to German unification. Kissinger
then points out how German unification
and a rigid alliance system across Europe
in the post-Bismarck era practically made
the catastrophe of World War I inevitable.
He also provides cases where the system
was marginalized—the Napoleonic era
and World Wars One and Two—to demonstrate how essential it is as a basis for
maintaining a semblance of international
stability and peace. Most important, he
examines America’s rejection of alliances
until it emerged as one of two dominant
world powers. The American vision of
itself, he tells us, is that it has had universal principles driving its participation in
global events, while other countries mereAIR POWER
History / SUMMER 2015
ly have national interests. For much of its
history, America distained the Westpha lian concept and the European system of
alliances as fundamentally immoral. It
pursued its own agenda of empire building
(Manifest Destiny) by justifying it as
ordained by Providence. Woodrow Wilson’s
crusade to change the very nature of governments and the relationships between
nations was a consequence of America’s
unique view of world order.
Kissinger assesses nuclear weapons
proliferation as the overarching strategic
problem for the contemporary international order. He sees this of critical importance,
because non-state actors have no reservations on their use, and emerging nuclear
states may fail to control their employment. Additionally, in a multipolar nuclear
world, the balance of power may be upset,
multiplying the possibilities of nuclear confrontation. In a separate section, Kissinger
discusses the impact of information technology on world order, stating that cyberspace challenges all of humankind’s historical experience. The challenge presented is
especially disruptive to order, because
internet technology has made it is easier to
initiate cyber attacks than it is to defend
against them. Cyber warfare then becomes
equivalent to actual armed attack, but
without international rules for acceptable
levels of response.
World Order is illuminating. However,
there was some difficulty where Kissinger
maintained that the invasion of Iraq was
consistent with America’s values in
defense of the free world and the ending of
tyranny. If that were true, then the United
States should have been invading scores of
undemocratic countries in all corners of
the world. Kissinger does make it clear
that, because of a number of factors in the
Middle East, the goal of building democracies where none have existed, given the
presence of significant and nearly insurmountable obstacles, has resulted in a
Sisyphean nightmare in Iraq. That nightmare has grown in dimension with the
jihadist extremists stepping into the
power vacuum and seizing huge swaths of
territory as they spread their terror.
Kissinger has highlighted the most
important issues currently confronting
world leadership and provided intelligent
insight into those issues. His descriptive
language makes it completely accessible to
non-academic readers who may not necessarily be familiar with the background,
concepts, strategy, or nature of world order.
This is an important book and must be
Col .John Cirafici, USAF (Ret.), Milford
Australia and the War in the Air:
Volume I - The Centenary History of
Australia and the Great War. By
Michael Molkentin. Oxford, UK: Oxford
University Press, 2015. Photographs.
Maps. Charts. Appendices. Bibliography.
Notes. Index. Pp.288. $91.00 ISBN: 978-019-557579-5
With 2014 marking the centennial of
World War I, a proliferation of new books
dealing with the history of the war have
emerged on the bookshelves. Within this
broad topic, many new works on the war in
the air have appeared. Accordingly, separating the wheat from the chaff or, more
specifically, those books that stem from
primary rather than secondary sources, is
an interesting exercise.
Michael Molkentin earned his Ph.D.
in history from the University of New
South Wales. His specialty is wartime histories of Australia and other British
dominions, with a particular interest in
aviation and air power. Australia and the
War in the Air is a follow-on work to his
seminal Fire in the Sky: The Australian
Flying Corps in the First World War. This
new book is certainly worthy of being held
in the highest regard.
The titles of the two books might lead
to the misunderstanding that they are one
and the same. Be assured they are not.
This new work is based on his doctoral
thesis and is the first volume in Oxford’s
Centenary History of Australia and the
Great War series. How better to differentiate the two works than this quote from the
author to me regarding this question:
Fire in the Sky focused on the Australian
Flying Corps (AFC) and the tactical level
experiences of individuals and units in the
air war. My research for it was largely
restricted to records held in Australia,
mostly private papers (letters, diaries,
memoirs), and unit-level records such as
combat reports and squadron war diaries.
If this approach could be described as ‘from
below’, Australia and the War in the Air, by
contrast, approaches the subject ‘from
above’. The funding I had as a PhD candidate permitted me to research overseas,
allowing me to position Australia’s involvement in the air war in the political, imperial and operational contexts that defined it.
These records also allowed me to go beyond
the AFC and look at how Australians volunteered for service in the British flying
services too, and to spend time examining
aspects such as administration, training
and command that I largely overlooked in
FitS (Fire in the Sky).
This is not simply a picture book,
though there are photographs, maps, and
charts throughout. The well-researched
text, four appendices, bibliographic essay,
notes, and index make it a complete and
serious study of an important topic regarding the air portion of the Great War.
Carl J. Bobrow, Museum Specialist, Natio nal Air and Space Museum
Bomber Aircraft of 305 Squadron. By
Lechostaw Musialkowski. Sandomierz,
Poland: Mushroom Model Publications,
2014. Photographs. Pp. 192. $53.00 ISBN:
After the fall of Poland in 1939, most
of the flying personnel and technicians of
the Polish air force were evacuated to
Romania and Hungary. Many found their
way to France and, ultimately, to the
United Kingdom, where Polish air force
units were re-created. This book is the
photographic history of the 305th
Weilkopolski Polish bomber squadron that
operated as part of the British RAF from
1940 to 1947.
The 305th Squadron was formed on
August 29, 1940 and was initially equipped
with Fairey Battle aircraft. In November
1940, it was re-equipped with the Vickers
Wellington bomber. The unit began operational flying in April 1941. Missions were
primarily over the Netherlands and western Germany. In the fall of 1943, squadron
operations were shifted to tactical air
strikes on enemy buildings, bridges, supply
trains, and troop concentrations. During
this period, the squadron converted briefly
to North American Mitchell medium
bombers before being supplied with the De
Havilland Mosquito FB.VI. The squadron
was moved to France in late 1944. After the
war ended, the squadron continued to operate in Germany as part in of the occupation
forces. It was finally disbanded in January
The book covers the origins of the
squadron and the aircraft used. Terse mission descriptions provide names of participating personnel, aircraft serial numbers,
and mission results (e.g. enemy aircraft,
trucks, trains, and buildings damaged or
destroyed, or ground troops targeted). This
is particularly true of operations conducted later in the war, when the squadron
was assigned low-altitude interdiction
with the Mosquito. Also included, are
squadron aircraft destroyed or damaged
and names of aircrew lost. Short accounts
of dangers faced during many of the missions make interesting reading. Statistics
summarize the number of combat sorties,
hours flown, and bomb tonnage dropped.
The chapters of the book are organized
around the aircraft assigned to the
squadron throughout the war: Fairey
Battle, Vickers Wellington IA and IC,
Vickers Wellington II, Vickers Wellington
IV, Vickers Wellington X, North American
Mitchell Mk II, and de Havilland Mosquito
Each chapter includes many blackand-white photographs of the respective
aircraft with descriptions of the markings
and camouflage schemes. Matching color
profiles provide the reader with more
detail of these markings and camouflage
patterns. Examples of nose art and other
markings for the aircraft are also shown.
Some photographs include the flight or
ground crews staged around the aircraft or
providing routine armament and maintenance services. At the end of the book are
several photographs taken after the war of
captured German aircraft and a V1 rocket
launch facility.
Most of the photographs are from
Gabriel Miłosz. He served in various
photo-related roles throughout the war
and ultimately was head of the photo section of the 305th. Excellent color profiles,
matched to many of the black-and-white
photographs, are provided by Marek
Radomski. These combine to make the volume a valuable resource for aircraft and
diorama modelers interested in the various WWII aircraft. This book is also valuable for those interested in the members
and operations of the Polish Air Force
serving with the RAF in World War II.
Frank Willingham, Docent, National Air
and Space Museum
The Birth of the Royal Air Force: An
Encyclopedia of British Air Power
Before and During the Great War—
1914 to 1918. Ian M. Philpott. Barnsley,
UK: Pen & Sword Books, 2013. Photographs. Maps. Appendices. Bibliography.
Index. Pp. 480. $70.00 ISBN: 978-178159333-2
Ian Philpott, a retired RAF Wing
Commander, has written a most valuable
and useful reference work and one that
lives up to the promise in its subtitle. As
such, it complements the two seminal histories by the late Professor Alfred M. Gollin:
No Longer an Island: Britain and the
Wright Brothers, 1902–09 and The Impact
of Air Power on the British People and their
Government, 1909-14. Indeed, Gollin, sadly,
was working on a successor to these when
he died. In effect, Philpott has contributed a
work that nicely fits with Gollin’s pioneering studies, though very different in organizational structure and style.
The title of the book is, to a degree,
misleading. Readers may think Philpott
will plunk them down in the midst of the
Gotha and R-plane raids of 1917-18 (with
the attendant outcry of the populace), and
the Parliamentary, War Office, and
Admiralty battling over the future of air
power, and the influential Smuts report.
They will be pleasantly surprised to discover that he begins his account well
before the war—in fact, all the way back to
the first military kite and ballooning
experiments at the time of the Boer War.
In six chapters, Philpott takes the
reader from the foundational days of
British air power through the formation of
the RAF in 1918, detailing the operational
history of the so-called Independent
Bomber Force in 1918. His second section,
of five chapters, treats specialized topics
from aircraft design through training, basing, personnel and administration, and
technical support and logistics. No less
than twelve appendices follow on a variety
of topics. The bibliography, alas, is sparse
to the point that it offers little in the way
of guidance to a reader wishing further
information (Gollin’s works, for example,
are notably absent).
Overall, as Philpott states, “This is not
a book one might read from cover to cover
but is essentially a work of reference.”
Instead, readers are presented with a
series of extracts from official documents
and memoirs, the vast majority drawn
from records held in The National
Archives (formerly the Public Record
Office) at Kew. These make for fascinating
reading, and s Philpott introduces the sections by cogent and thoughtful essays. To
this degree, the book makes a very useful
companion to the late Capt. S. W. Roskill,
RN’s Documents Relating to the Naval Air
Service, v. 1, 1908-1918.
With the 100th anniversary of the
founding of the RAF rapidly approaching,
one may expect a plethora of works tracing
the history of the service. Certainly those
researching and writing such books will do
well to consult Wing Commander
Philpott’s compendium, which easily takes
its place among other studies of British air
power, and which should be an essential
reference for anyone interested in the complex and fascinating roots of the world’s
oldest independent air force.
Dr. Richard P Hallion, Research Associate
in Aeronautics, National Air and Space
Other Than War: The American
Experience and Operations in the
Post-Cold War Decade. By Frank N.
History / SUMMER 2015
Schubert. Washington, D.C.: Joint History
Office, 2013. Tables. Notes. Bibliography.
Index. Pp. ix, 126. Available free from
As the Cold War bipolar confrontation
between the U.S. and Soviet Russia dissolved into today’s multipolar world, many
small conflicts flared around the world.
The United States responded by frequently engaging its military in operations
below the threshold of open combat. These
operations included peacekeeping, peace
enforcement, peacemaking, and humanitarian aid to mention just some of the most
prominent. These operations became collectively known as “Military Operations
Other Than War” (MOOTW or a variety of
other acronyms).
This short book provides a relatively
through discussion of the basic subject. It
originated in the mid 1990s out of the
request from a Joint Staff officer for a list
of those current operations. The book leads
off with a historical background dating
back to the 19th century showing that
MOOTW is not a new phenomenon.
Schubert demonstrates that the U.S. military has engaged in these types of operations throughout its history. He then discusses operations beginning with the end
of the Cold War through today dividing
them into four broad areas: Drug
Enforcement/Migrant interdiction (support for domestic issues), Humanitarian,
Stability, and Other Types of Operations.
He outlines the characteristics of each category and then moves into a discussion of
the big picture and what he sees as the
transition to future operations.
Several themes emerge from the discussion. The first focuses on DoD’s
process of naming every operation no
matter how small. Schubert argues this
gives a false perspective on commitment.
While the larger and particularly ongoing
operations such as Southern and
Northern Watch from the 1990s and
Enduring and Iraqi Freedom from the
2000s do significantly impact overall
readiness, the many smaller ones have
much more limited impact. By naming
every operation as if they were Overlord,
it becomes difficult to differentiate
between large and small and, therefore,
the actual effort expended. The second
theme deals with methods for counting
deployed personnel which have varied by
service and over time. Again, developing
an accurate picture of impact is complicated. Schubert suggests that grouping
similar or related operations into campaigns and standardizing resource
accounting would make the information
more accessible and useful.
History / SUMMER 2015
MOOTW, by whatever name, has been a
constant in U.S. history; and we shouldn’t expect it to go away. Low-intensity
combat operations such as those in Libya
and against ISIS also seem a permanent
fixture. Figuring out the best way, therefore, to track these operations to derive
lessons learned will benefit policy and
decision makers. Schubert has written a
useful primer on the subject and I hope he
will consider expanding this volume to
include a discussion of the policy- and decision-making processes associated with
determining when and how we choose to
Lt. Col. Golda Eldridge, USAF (Ret.), EdD
Allied Air Power 1942-1945: A News reel History of Allied Air Force
Operations in World War II. By Perry
Wolff. Havertown PA: Casemate Publishers. 80 min. $14.95 ISBN: 024762065-3
This DVD is a reissue of a documentary film, The Smashing of the Reich, an
overview of the Allied campaign in Europe
compiled in 1962 from wartime footage.
Pen and Sword reissued it as part of a new
World War II DVD series. These DVDs,
including titles on individual battles,
weapons, and campaigns, accompany their
popular print series on the same topics.
Smashing the Reich details the course
of the war in Northern Europe from
autumn 1943 to VE day. The roles of daylight precision strategic bombing, especially of the oil industry, and tactical airpower
are prominently featured. D-Day, the
breakout from St. Lô , the drive across
France, and the Battle of the Bulge are
covered. True to the title, a significant percentage of screen time is devoted to bombs
falling, guns firing, targets blowing up,
enemy footage of burning factories, and
gun-camera film of trucks, tanks and
trains exploding under strafing attacks.
There is plenty of footage of fighters and
bombers taxiing, taking off, and in flight;
those who track such things will be able to
pick out individual units, aircraft, and
even individuals in some shots. For
instance, General Pete Quesada of the IX
TAC appears in a scene with Eisenhower,
although he is not pointed out.
Producer and writer Perry Wolff is an
experienced documentary creator, with
Airpower (1956), A Tour of the White House
(1962) and a number of works on history
and the fine arts to his credit. The music
by composer Norman Dello Joio, who
scored the TV documentaries Airpower
(1956) and The Golden Prison: The Louvre
(1964) emphasizes the dramatic, setting a
mood of dominance and supremacy. Jim
Stephens’ narration is appropriately
clipped and hard-bitten, in wartime style,
with meaningful pauses to let the points
sink in.
The World War II compilation documentary genre as we know it originated
with the critically acclaimed Victory at Sea
(1954), scored by famed composers
Richard Rodgers and Robert Russell
Bennett. The pattern it set probably
peaked with The World at War, a widely
viewed 1970’s TV series that interspersed
eyewitness accounts with original footage.
Unfortunately, Smashing the Reich
does not reach the high standard set by
those landmark works. This film takes a
simplistic view of the strategic bombardment of Europe in World War II. Strategies, tactics, and timelines are blurred.
Events are conveniently rearranged to fit
the narrative. The B–17 is emphasized;
the B–24 is but briefly visible. The
Mediterranean Theater of Operations and
the Fifteenth Air Force are not cited. Air
Force leadership—Eighth Air Force or otherwise—is not in the narrative; it appears
to the viewer as though Eisenhower made
all the decisions. Casablanca, from which
emerged the Combined Bomber Offensive,
focusing on defeat of the Luftwaffe, and
Operation Pointblank, the air campaign
during the first six months of 1944 to seize
air superiority over Europe, are not mentioned. Although the crisis of the unescorted bomber in the fall of 1943 opens the
film, portrayal of efforts to develop a longrange escort fighter force leaves the
impression that the problem was solved
almost overnight. Even the film’s concentration on the oil campaign is mishandled.
The August 1943 Ploesti operation is
absent; if the central theme is oil, it should
have opened with it. As a history of the air
war in Europe, the film falls very short.
All of that said, Smashing the Reich
rightfully can be regarded as a newsreel
history intended for popular consumption.
Those who fought the war, built the
weapons, and supported the home front
composed this film’s original audience.
Typical of many documentaries of the
immediate postwar years, it closes with
scenes of families warmly greeting homecoming troops. Familiar with the wartime
sense of menace and national purpose,
they would readily have related to the producer’s unfettered, graphic approach, and
drawn emotional sustenance from seeing
that their sacrifices were not in vain:
Europe was liberated, prisoners freed, evil
vanquished. It would be difficult—perhaps
not politically correct—to issue such a
work for a general audience now. Shots of
neatly costumed re-enactors, cleaned-up
battlefields, and restored warbirds with
only brief excerpts of contemporary
footage characterize documentaries of the
past fifteen or twenty years.
Pen and Sword did not restore the
film itself for this reissue. Some clips are
blurry, contrast is off, and numbered
leader (for theater projectionist use) precedes some scenes. After five decades,
some sequences have become familiar
stock shots. Nonetheless, the era of vivid
documentary of the first few decades
immediately after the war is a valuable
trove of contemporary footage that portrays World War II far more vividly than
one is likely to see in modern productions.
Steve Agoratus, Hamilton, N.J.
Wings of the Navy: Testing British
and U.S. Carrier Aircraft. By Royal
Navy Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown CBE,
DSC, AFC, RN. Manchester: Blacker
Design and Hikoki Publications. 2013.
Cutaway Diagrams. Illustrations. Photographs. Index. Pp. 344. $56.95. ISBN 9 78
1902109 329.
Captain Eric Brown had a thirty-oneyear career in the Royal Navy. He is the
Fleet Air Arm’s most decorated pilot, has
flown a record 490 basic types of aircraft,
made a world record 2,407 carrier landings in fixed-wing aircraft, and is the only
non-American to have been inducted into
the U.S. Navy’s Test Pilot Hall of Honor. He
has also authored Wings of the Weird and
Wonderful; Wings of the Luftwaffe: Flying
German Aircraft of the Second World War;
Wings of the Luftwaffe: Flying the
Captured German Aircraft of World War
II; Duels in the Sky; Testing for Combat;
The Helicopter in Civil Operations; and
Wings on My Sleeve.
All fighting aircraft display some
measure of compromise between operational requirements, flight characteristics,
and technology applications. Perhaps no
designer has to make more concessions
than in the development of carrier-based
aircraft, which must accommodate both
the demands of combat as well as the
maritime environments in which they
Brown has recorded the flying characteristics of principal combat aircraft flown
from U.S. and British carriers, from preWorld War II designs through the introduction of turbojet aircraft in the 1950s.
Thirty aircraft are described, from the
archaic Fairey Swordfish to the astonishing McDonnell Phantom II. Brown begins
with a chapter on “stringent design
requirements for naval aircraft” including
comments on needs for adequate undercarriage structure, landing visibility, aircraft attitude and aerodynamic characteristics, arresting gear, and requirements for
multi-engine designs. Next, he addresses
the “delicate art of deck landing”, which
briefly describes the differences between
British and American carrier deck landing
techniques, deck safety equipment, and
carrier configuration changes brought
about by the advent of the jet age (namely
the angled deck, steam catapult, and mirror landing sight).
The main section of the book contains
a chapter on each of the individual aircraft. Brown starts with a one-sentence
overview of what he thinks of the aircraft.
He doesn’t pull any punches and tells it
like it is! Some examples are:
Fairey Swordfish: “Obsolescent at the outset of World War II, but triumphant
in the Battle of the Atlantic at
Taranto, and against the mighty
Grumman Wildcat: “It was manna from
heaven, when the Fleet Air Arm’s
fighter cupboard was pretty bare.”
(this was one of Brown’s favorite
Douglas Dauntless: “Not up to Stuka standard, but served the Navy well in the
wartime Far East.”
Curtiss Helldiver: It never recovered from
a poor design start, and had little
operational impact.”
Vought Corsair: “Oversized, but an effective fighter. A dog to land on an aircraft carrier.”
Chance Vought Cutlass: “I am not left with
beautiful memories of the Cutlass.”
(this chapter is a great read for stability and control-system engineers
McDonnell Phantom: “One of the greatest
aircraft I have ever flown.”
Each chapter describes the overall
design requirements and intended operational use of the aircraft. Brown describes
start-up and take-off and landing procedures in some detail to include cockpit settings for engine, cooling, and control surfaces. Climb and cruise performance is discussed in some detail, along with static
and dynamic stability. Brown’s data and
opinions are all based on his more-thanadequate flight test experience on multiple aircraft. A detailed cutaway drawing is
included for each aircraft along with many
cockpit layouts.
This is an excellent reference volume.
It is a solid, reliable work by an author
whose credentials are above reproach. The
book will provide many hours of enjoyable
and informative reading for the aviation
enthusiast and, especially, for aviators and
design engineers alike!
Frank Willingham, Docent, National Air
and Space Museum
Surprised at Being Alive: An Accidental Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam
and Beyond. By Robert F. Curtis.
Havertown, Penn.: Casemate Publishers.
2014. Index. Photographs. Glossary. Pp.
297. $32.95 ISBN 978-I-61200-275-0
Major Robert Curtis, U.S.MC (Ret),
has over 5,000 flight hours, mostly in helicopters, during 24 years with four armed
services. He enlisted in the U.S. Army’s
Warrant Officer Candidate Program and
flew CH–47s in Vietnam from 1968-1972.
He then joined the National Guard from
1972-1975 (UH–1H and OH–58A). He
served in the Marine Corps from 19751993 (CH–46E/F, CH–53D, UH–1N, and
AH–1T). From 1983-1985, he was on
exchange duty with the Royal Navy (Sea
King Mk IV, license-built S-61). During his
Marine service, he flew off U.S. and British
ships from the Med to the Baltic and many
points between.
Curtis sets down his memoir by
describing his four distinct “Flying Lives.”
Each contains a number of short, actionpacked flying stories. These range from
desperate combat tales to adventurous,
sometimes hand-wringing, sometimes
hilarious exploits during the post-Vietnam
war era. Common to all his stories, Curtis
provides just the right amount of technical
detail about how the aircraft should be
flown, operational performance and limitations, loading requirements and techniques, maintenance, and risks. He gives a
good feel of what goes through the pilot’s
mind when facing various situations,
ranging from a perfectly normal flight to
high-tension events like loss of visibility,
engine failure, or being shot down! Curtis
contends that his success in flying resulted from “luck and superstition,” words that
end most of his stories. Based on his writing, I would add “ritual” to that group.
Curtis downplays his obviously excellent
piloting skills and relies on his ability to
“close his mind’s door” on all external
events that don’t involve flying the aircraft. He contends that anything less than
full concentration does not allow one to be
fully successful as an aviator. When you
can’t close the door on that mental room
marked “flying”, it’s time to retire.
Curtis’ flying career began in 1968,
when he enlisted in the Army to gain some
measure of control over his future. This
was a time when the draft was inevitable.
History / SUMMER 2015
He signed up to be a helicopter pilot and
was soon in the thick of the Vietnam War,
flying Chinooks with the 159th Combat
Aviation Brigade. You get the drift of his
stories by some of their titles: The Playtex
Club, Survival Instruments, Tracers, Night
Flight, Flares, and Napalm.
Curtis’ second “Life” in the Guard,
was with the 2113th Transportation
Company, “you call—we haul”. Here, he
relates one assignment to fly state police
on an observation and enforcement mission during the truck strike of 1973. He
also flew the governor of Kentucky on a
tornado damage-assessment mission.
In his third Marine “life,” Curtis had
some hair-raising experiences with Night
Vision Goggles, Night Flight (“In the event
of a complete loss of engine power at night,
the pilot should turn on both the landing
and searchlights. If he does not like what
he sees, he should turn them off.”), Wires,
Special Ops, and being Broken on a
Moroccan Beach.
During his two years of exchange
duty with the Royal Navy, deployed from
Egypt to Norway, he had to fly through
brownouts from blowing sand and whiteouts from falling snow. He also operated to
and from shipboard in dense sea fog.
I liked this book! It is at once exciting,
philosophical, insightful and informative.
It can bring a tear to your eye and make
you laugh out loud. It’s a page turner!
Frank Willingham, Docent, National Air
and Space Museum
History of Rocketry and Astronautics—AAS History Series, Volume 41.
By Kerrie Dougherty, Ed. American Astronautical Society, 2014. Tables. Diagrams.
Illustrations. Photographs. Index. Pp. 460.
$110.00 ISBN: 978-0-87703-607-4
This is Volume 41 of the American
Astronautical Society (AAS) History
Series that contains the continuing symposium proceedings of the International
Academy of Astronautics (IAA). Prague,
Czech Republic, was the location for the
44th History of Astronautics Symposium
in September, 2010. As in previous volumes, the papers are organized in Parts
(four in this volume), with each paper
being a chapter (21 chapters). Although
Part 1 and Part 4 are very interesting, I
especially liked Parts 2 and 3 with their
intimate reviews of key space pioneers and
the science/technology being developed for
mankind’s initial travels and exploration
of space. All of the papers recounted relevant and important history.
A highlight of the session on IAA:
History / SUMMER 2015
Origin and Early Years, was a pre-recorded interview with Dr. Les Shepherd, one of
the founders of IAA. He was 92 at the time
of this interview and passed away in 2012.
We are fortunate to have his recounting of
the exciting early days. The complete DVD
interview is included with this volume.
The Part 1 papers discuss some early
space organizations that reflect the challenging public environment of the times.
Four papers stood out in Part 2,
“Memories and Organizational Histories.”
One was a paper on the history and contributions of Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, a historian and a member of Werner von Braun’s
rocket team transplanted from Germany
to the U.S.. At the NASA Marshall Center,
he was the first director of the Space
Science Laboratory. His most widely
known historical work is on von Braun.
Chapter 7 reviews the many important
and critical contributions of Ary Sternfeld
to spacecraft trajectories and maneuvers,
a major area of modern cosmonautics.
Chapter 9 recalls the history of Dr. Vasiliy
Budnik, a founder of space rocketry in
Ukraine and his service as deputy to
U.S.SR Chief Designer Korolev. Dr. Budnik
was directly involved in all of the U.S.SR’s
successful rocket programs. “Japan’s
Space Program” reviews half a century of
history of the Institute of Space and
Aeronautical Science, one of the key
groups leading to the formation of the
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the
organization leading Japan’s impressive
Part 3, “Science and Technology
Reviews,” contained three very good
papers. “Impact of the IGY” covers the historic space-program impacts of the critical
International Geophysical Year (IGY) program back in 1957-1958. I remember this
future-oriented program in my high school
days. It aimed at the future within many
countries. “Nixon/Ford Space Policy” provides a revealing look at the space policy
results of the Nixon and Ford administrations in the late 1960s and 1970s. Projects
Apollo and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
(ASTP) required many complex agreements throughout the world. Chapter 15,
“Early Rocket Motor Development,” features an historical artifact, the American
Rocket Society (ARS) Test Stand No. 2
(1938-1942). The development of regenerative-cooled rocket motors depended on this
continually modified test apparatus that is
now displayed at the National Air and
Space Museum in Washington DC. The
ARS and this test stand were very instrumental in the formation of RMI (Reaction
Motors, Inc.), a key group in U.S. rocket
development based on the Wyld motor
regenerative principle.
The last part, “Contributions to
Astronautics in the Former Czechoslovakia,” is a tribute to the host country to
cover history and contributions to early
rocket, satellite, and space technology by
the former Czechoslovakia. A host-recognition section is a standard feature of the
previous symposia proceedings. It also
reminds us that space activities and interests involve all countries and people of the
world. Space achievements represent and
excite all mankind.
In summary, this book reviews lots of
interesting history. It has something for
everyone: a variety of subjects on personalities, history, organizations, countries,
and technologies. It can offer some interesting reading and just good browsing. It is
a treasure of space history and memorable
events from which I learned many new
things. I suggest that an interested reader
should check out the other 40 volumes of
the AAS History Series.
Paul D. Stone, Docent, NASM Udvar-Hazy
The Supercarriers: The Forrestal and
Kitty Hawk Classes. By Andrew Faltum.
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2014.
Maps. Tables. Diagrams. Illustrations.
Photographs. Notes. Appendices. Glossary.
Bibliography. Index. Pp. ix, 240. $42.95
ISBN 978-1-59114-180-8
Retired Commander Andrew Faltum
served as an air intelligence officer on
board the U.S.S Midway before joining the
Navy Reserve. He has also authored The
Independence Light Aircraft Carriers and
The Essex Aircraft Carriers.
The Forrestal class ships were the
first super carriers specifically designed to
accommodate naval jet aircraft entering
service after World War II. The U.S.S
Forrestal ushered in a new era of naval
power when it was commissioned in 1955.
Ships of the Kitty Hawk class were essentially improved Forrestal designs. The
basic soundness of their design is reflected
in the fact that they became the basis for
every U.S. carrier that followed.
Faltum addresses the individual ships
of their respective classes: CV-59 Forrestal,
CV-60 Saratoga, CV-61 Ranger, CV-62
Independence, CV-63 Kitty Hawk, CV-64
Constellation, CV-66 America, and CV-67
John F. Kennedy. But, because of the book’s
organization, it must be read cover-to-cover
to obtain an overview of the design, armament, aircraft, operations, deployments,
and ultimate fate of each ship.
An overview chapter addresses a potpourri of topics, including political and budgetary problems facing the Navy. Next, car-
rier configuration is discussed (angled deck
layout, catapults, aircraft accommodation,
defensive armament, and arresting gear).
Finally, keel laydown and launch dates,
yards where built, and initial deployments
are described for each of the carriers.
Faltum moves on to describe flight
deck launch and landing operations, deck
crew assignments, maintenance processes,
and preparation of the carrier for sea duty.
Early “main battery” aircraft are mentioned (e.g., F2H, F7U, F9F, FJ-4, F11F). A
subsequent chapter describes accommodation of aircraft evolution to new types (e.g.,
F–14, F/A–18, S–3, SH–60). Follow-up
technical data for each aircraft type is presented in an appendix. More aircraft photos are needed here. Photos are accumulated in a couple of sections, and the reader
has to flip back and forth to see what
Faltum is talking about. While there are
ample photos of carriers in various configurations and operations, the many aircraft
discussed are not all shown. A photo would
help a reader remember the difference
between the Grumman Tracker, Tracer,
and Greyhound! Faltum also discusses
new developments in catapult systems,
automatic carrier landing systems, defensive gun and missile systems, automation
and information systems, and the carrier
service life extension programs. A 62-page
appendix details naval air wings,
squadrons, their coding, aircraft types, and
deployments to each super carrier.
Several chapters show the value of
carrier operations as deterrents in Cold
War hot spots (e.g., Suez, Lebanon, Africa,
Quemoy), Viet Nam, the Gulf, Bosnia, and
Middle East. The causes and results of
several major carrier disasters, such as the
Forrestal fire, are also brought out.
The book has more than 100 blackand-white illustrations and maps covering
the western Pacific, Vietnam, Mediterranean, Middle East, Indian Ocean, and
Caribbean. The front endpaper provides
port and starboard profiles and an overhead view of the Saratoga (Forrestal class).
The rear endpaper displays similar views of
the Constellation (Kitty Hawk class).
Overall, the book is an excellent reference volume—a good anthology of super
carrier design requirements, technology,
and operational use. Naval jargon and
acronyms are explained in easily understood terms. Policy, threat, budgets, and
technology status are placed in context to
allow the reader a more comprehensive
understanding of the rationale behind,
and application of, the first generation of
the nation’s super carriers.
Frank Willingham, National Air and
Space Museum Docent
Fall of the Flying Dragon: South
Vietnamese Air Force, 1973-75. By
Albert Grandolini. Houston TX: Harpia
Publishing and Moran Publishing Joint
Venture, 2011. Charts. Tables. Illustrations. Photographs. Notes. Appendices.
Bibliography. Index. Pp. 256. $48.00 ISBN
Do not let this slick volume fool you.
Fall of the Flying Dragon fills a major gap
in Vietnam War history. The examination
of the relationship of the U.S. military and
the final fall of South Vietnam remains
largely untouched. Grandolini utilizes
sources from North and South Vietnam
along with personal accounts from participants recently released. The story unfolds
clearly but sadly. It is, after all, a story of
defeat at the hands of the Communist
Grandolini, a military historian and
freelance aviation journalist, spent his
youth in South Vietnam. This sparked his
long-time interest in Asian military history. Extensive use of lengthy personal letters, while sometimes tedious, offers
revealing perspective on the trials and
tribulations endured by the South
Vietnamese. Despite the challenges
involved at the end of the war, South
Vietnam’s air force made tremendous
efforts to defend its country but, without
U.S. assistance, were unable to hold back
communist efforts.
Beginning with a brief summary of
the early development of the South
Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF), Grandolini
examines the sporadic growth and development of the VNAF emphasizing links to
the U.S. during the war years. The bulk of
the book deals with the period following
the 1973 cease-fire until the fall of the
South in 1975.
Grandolini’s description of the “Final
build-up” initiated by the VNAF reveals a
dedication to organize, expand, focus, and
train in preparation for the coming struggle against the North Vietnamese which
were equipped with formidable Soviet aircraft such as the MiG–21 and deadly SA–2
Guideline surface-to-air missiles. The high
drama, sacrifice, and dedication of the
South Vietnamese forces during the tragic
final events of April 1975, including evacuation in the face of overwhelming enemy
forces, is difficult to read without emotion.
Accounts of fuel shortages for operations
and family efforts to locate lost aviators
only scratch the surface of difficulties presented here for the first time.
Throughout this book, wartime
imagery, much in color, is included on
nearly every page. Each image is accompanied by a detailed caption that adds
depth to the narrative story. Reference
notes following each chapter are equally
detailed, some a bit too long, and others
that might have been included directly in
the book narrative.
That being said, a reader may
approach this volume in three ways. For
those wishing a new look at a time of the
war much neglected, reading the main
narrative and looking at the images will
provide that experience. For those wishing
greater details, reading the full captions
adds depth to the personal stories often
with vivid descriptive details. Including
the page-turning exercise necessary to
include the chapter endnotes is well worth
the effort and showcases the detailed
research that shaped Grandolini’s work.
Also included in the appendices are illustrations of unit patches and aircraft camouflage designs similar to those seen in the
WarBird Series of slick aircraft tech softbound books.
The publisher’s mission statement
says their products are “The Aviation
Books of a Different Kind: Unique Topics,
In-depth Research, Rare Pictures, High
Printing Quality.” Grandolini’s, Fall of the
Flying Dragon: South Vietnamese Air
Forces 1973-75, hits the Harpia Publishing
target with a CEP of zero.
Lt. Col. Dik Daso, USAF (Ret.), PhD, Adjunct
History Faculty, Univ. of South Carolina
Reconnaissance and Bomber Aces of
World War 1 [Book 123 of Aircraft of the
Aces series]. By Jon Guttman. Oxford UK:
Osprey Publishing, 2015. Photographs.
Appendices. Bibliography. Notes. Index.
Pp. 96. $22.95 ISBN-10: 178-200801-2
Historian and author Jon Guttman
manages to pack a great deal of material
into the nearly 100 pages of his most
recent addition to the Osprey Aircraft of
the Aces collection. Nearly every page has
a photograph or two together with accompanying text that is equally as informative
and descriptive as the rest of the book.
In the decades since World War I
ended, it seems as if pursuit pilots have
been the mainstay of war-in-the-air books.
Occasionally a book comes along, such as
this one, which tells a different story. This
one isabout the arbeitsflieger, or working
aviator: the reconnaissance and bomber
pilots and crews.
Guttman brings together in one volume a number of these individuals and
their valiant battle records. Although the
book does not cover all of the combatants
who could be called an ace, it does lay out
a cohesive examination of many of these
individuals. To Guttman’s credit he does
History / SUMMER 2015
provide lists in the appendices—which are
as complete as he could compile—of all of
those individuals who reached this combat
Perhaps the main thing to consider
about the reconnaissance and bomber
pilots and crews is not how many enemy
aircraft they shot down but, rather, that
they were capable of defending themselves
at all—quite often against great odds, and
do so time and time again. From the very
beginning of the war, aerial reconnaissance was the pivotal role that was delegated to the airplane. These machines
were soon carrying weapons to defend
themselves and, in many cases, to attack
the enemy found roaming in the same
space of sky. From the exploits described, it
is easy to understand how the phrase
“boredom punctuated by moments of terror” was wholly applicable to these arbeitsflieger. These crews were detailed for long
flights in the vast ocean of the heavens
often deep into enemy-held territory over a
battered landscape. Then, literally out of
the blue, the enemy would appear, all too
often with superior speed, maneuverability, numbers, and firepower with every
intention of destroying the aircraft and its
The book is divided into seven sections. The core deals with French, British,
American, German, and Austro-Hungarian crews. In addition to a group of lists
of those individuals not covered in the narrative of the book, the appendices also contain thirty-two color profiles of aircraft
flown on these missions. There are further
details of the men, machines and exploits
of this portion of the first great air war. I
highly recommend this book for
researchers, historians, modelers, and
Carl Bobrow, Museum Specialist, National
Air and Space Museum
Stay the Distance: The Life and Times
of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir
Michael Beetham. By Peter Jacobs.
Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books, 2011.
Photographs. Appendix. Bibliography. Pp
336. $50.00 ISBN: 978-1-84832-552-4
Wing Commander Peter Jacobs was
chosen to write the Beetham story following the death of Air Commodore Henry
Probert, Head of the Air Historical
Branch, who Jacobs notes had planned to
write the book. Beetham, the second
longest serving Chief of the Air Staff since
Lord Trenchard (1919–1930), subsequently chose Jacobs from their long professional association and for Jacobs’ Air Staff
History / SUMMER 2015
knowledge of squadron procedures or patterns with the Air Staff.
Both Trenchard and Beetham have a
good deal in common. Both served at times
of financial crisis; both had to organize and
order the RAF; and both were very familiar with commanding topics. However,
Trenchard was a poor flier and normally
was flown by a trained pilot, whereas
Beetham, on the other hand, starting out
his career as a pilot in World War II and
sought to be qualified in every aircraft on
the RAF inventory. When, for instance, he
went to visit or inspect a unit he hadn’t
visited before, he immediately got out his
parachute and his hard-hat helmet and
checked out in that aircraft. As Chief of the
Air Staff for seven years, he tried to visit
every station and, thus, kept in close touch
with the service itself.
Jacobs’ selection of photographs from
Beetham’s albums perhaps can be seen as
a lesson in service politics (although
Beetham didn’t take all of the photos, but
he did collect them). At least it appears
from the photographs chosen that planning was a primary concern. Although too
young at the moment to become Marshal
of the RAF, Beetham was favored for the
post from some time before. And it seems
that one of the things that was strongly in
his dossier was the fact that he had so held
so many posts, all the way up to
Commander in Chief in Germany, in
which planning and foresight were very
much required. Thus, before he became
Chief of the Air Staff, it is evident that he
had a reputation as someone who could
see ahead in both the RAF technical area
and in politics.
The book has a serious weakness.
While it portrays a career pattern that
successfully concluded at the top, there is
very little feeling for the man himself.
Jacobs seems to have consulted Beetham’s
personnel records as a path to describing
the airman’s career pattern. But we have
very little sense of the individual. Even
worse, his wife is but a cipher to the whole
story. Nevertheless, this is a book that
would be worth reading by career-ambitious officers.
Robin Higham, Professor Emeritus, Mili tary History, Kansas State University, and
Sometime Pilot, RAFR 1943–1947
George Owen Squier: U.S. Army Major
General, Inventor, Aviation Pioneer,
Founder of Muzak. By Paul W. Clark and
Laurence A. Lyons. Jefferson NC: McFar land & Company, 2014. Photographs.
Appendices. Bibliography. Notes. Index. Pp.
292. $39.95 ISBN-10: 0786476354
Whenever we make a phone call or
find ourselves in an environment filled
with background music, these ever-present
elements in our life are thanks to George
Owen Squier (pronounced “square”). He
invented telephone signal multiplexing,
which permits multiple transmissions on a
single line, and devised the system that
could provide piped-in music on demand to
any location, including elevators.
This biography covers the full sweep of
his military career as Chief Signal Officer
of the United States Army, which included
overseeing the effort to provide the United
States, as well as its allies, with Americanmanufactured airplanes and engines during World War I. Simultaneously he was
organizing engineers, scientists, and corporations in an effort to develop and supply
the American forces going off to war with
the most modern communications equipment yet designed.
The book’s arc spans Squier’s early
years as a cadet at West Point, to his academic achievements at Johns Hopkins
University (receiving his doctorate in electrical engineering), and through his lifedefining career in the United States Army.
Of particular relevance to those of us
interested in aviation history are his efforts
to acquire aircraft for the Army. The establishment of the Aeronautical Division of
the U.S. Army Signal Corps, and the subsequent purchase of the Wright Brothers aircraft, were direct results of his efforts.
Squier was cognizant of the importance of
military aviation; perhaps nothing testified
more to his commitment than his willingness to be a passenger, making him the
first officer to fly in an airplane, on
September 12, 1908.
As the military attaché to Great
Britain during the first years of World War
I, Squier developed a clear understanding
of the technology-driven war. His privileged access to the front lines in France
afforded him a realistic view of the war. He
was quick to realize the importance of modern communication systems in fighting
such a war. Upon becoming Chief Signal
Officer of the Army, he oversaw the
advancement of wireless technology and,
within that sphere, the use of radiotelephony for command and control of military air
Despite the very long list of his
achievements, remarkably no biography of
George Squier has previously been published. This work fills that gap and provides a new understanding of how these
two important technologies became integral to the U.S. Army and its air arm.
Carl Bobrow, Museum Specialist, National
Air and Space Museum
Berlin Airlift: Air Bridge to Freedom–
A Photographic History of the Great
Airlift. By Bruce McAllister. Boulder, Col.:
Roundup Press, 2015. Maps. Tables. Photographs. Bibliography. Pp. 216. $49.95
ISBN: 978-0-61598499-5
With this effort, Bruce McAllister has
completed nine books on aviation history.
On each occasion, he has attempted to
compile a photographic record. This work,
however, is his first on a military subject.
While he relies on the obvious sources
such as the National Museum of the
United States Air Force and the National
Archives for close to 50 percent of his
images, about 40 percent come from his
personal collection. Altogether, he credits
more than 20 different sources. He was
stationed in West Berlin as a U.S. Army
lieutenant in 1959 and 1960.
The photographs and their captions,
along with a limited narrative, tell the
story of the western allies’ ability to disrupt the Soviet Union’s effort to enforce an
overland blockade of West Berlin from the
summer of 1948 to the spring of 1949. At
the time, West Berlin was a democratic
urban island surrounded by the communist German Democratic Republic (East
Germany). West Berlin depended on the
West to meet most of its needs.
Furthermore, much of the city still reflected the impact of the devastating Allied
bombing campaign of World War II.
Rather than emphasize a chronological approach, McAllister has correctly chosen to organize his 11 chapters (including
the introduction) on a thematic basis. The
introduction sets the stage, establishing
the post-war political situation that led to
the “estrangement” between the West and
Soviet Premier Josef Stalin.
The so-called first chapter, “Prelude,”
discusses West Berlin’s isolated status just
before the initiation of the blockade, an
action that interrupted all highway, railway, and waterway service with the proWest Federal Republic of Germany (West
Germany). In Chapter Two, he reviews the
challenges of initiating and sustaining
Operation Vittles (the American name)
and Operation Plainfare (the British
name). From there, he moves on to the
flight crews, improving the airfields both
in West Berlin and West Germany, the
types of goods transported, Gail Halvorsen
(better known as the “Candy Bomber”),
the various types of aircraft, maintenance,
and accidents. In recognition of the last
item, the book is dedicated to the 73 aircrew members who lost their lives. The
final chapter concludes with photos of the
Berlin Wall and its eventual demolition.
While it’s impossible to overemphasize the contribution of the Douglas C–54
Skymaster, the airlift’s workhorse, photos
of that aircraft tend to dominate. On the
other hand, aviation buffs will find
rewarding McAllister’s efforts to document
the use of as many aircraft as possible. For
example, he includes photos of the Douglas
C–74 Globemaster, of which only 14 were
Overall, this work probably is best
suited for students of the Cold War or airlift or those who have a personal connection.
Lt. Col. Steven D. Ellis, USAFR (Ret.),
docent, Museum of Flight, Seattle
American Bomber Aircraft Development in World War II. By Bill Norton.
Manchester UK: Crécy, 2012. Diagrams.
Illustrations. Photographs. Pp. 224. $35.00
ISBN: 978-1-85780-330-2
This book recounts in detail the development of U.S. Army Air Forces and Navy
World War II bombers. Bill Norton is a
retired USAF flight test engineer who has
worked at the Air Force Flight Test Center
and has held positions in aircraft engineering design and development as well as
project and business management. Norton
points out that this is the third of his
planned four-part set of books presenting
America’s development of World War II
military aircraft, with the emphasis on
experimental and lesser known models.
His previous works covered the development of U.S. fighter and cargo aircraft. He
has included in this work all American aircraft with bombing as their primary role.
The detail within the book is truly
valuable. Each aircraft entry describes the
design, development, and technical issues
faced by the commercial contractor and
the two military services from the drawing
board to operational employment. The
message is enhanced by illustrations that
portray the construction of the aircraft
part and/or total aircraft design. The high
level of detail is further enriched by the
numerous photos of the aircraft preparing
for flight during flight test operations. Of
particular note to me are the descriptions
of the various models of familiar aircraft
that helped the Allies win the war, namely
the venerable B–17 and B–24. Norton also
covers how and why the U.S. was able to
export versions of their aircraft inventory
to allied nations (UK, France, and the
USSR) through the Lend Lease program
for their use in combating Nazi Germany’s
military advances before the U.S. entered
into the fighting.
Norton focused on bomber aircraft
designs that evolved into the development
and test phase. However, he includes
numerous examples of heretofore not commonly known aircraft that never became
operational during the war. Because of the
lead time needed in major aircraft design
and development, Norton began his
research and writing on those developments from the late 1930s through the
summer of 1945. Interestingly enough,
this period of time brings the reader
through the propeller era to the dawn of
the age of jet bombers. The U.S. military
began a program in the summer of 1941 to
develop jet engines. However, no new
American bomber project begun after 1941
reached combat status.
There is not much effort to write
expansively on the operational use of the
aircraft, and there are very few photos of
the aircraft in wartime operations.
However, this by no means limits the
book’s value. Norton’s goal was to detail
the design and development phases of
these weapon systems, and he clearly
attained that objective. Those looking for a
book that depicts the wartime operational
experiences of vast American bomber
fleets need to look elsewhere. However, if
you are pursuing the detailed information
on how the American bombers used during
World War II came to be operational, the
problems faced by contractors and the services, the attempts to improve then-current aircraft inventories, and the attempts
to leap into the jet age, then this is certainly a book to consider.
This is a good and useful book that can
serve as a useful source document. I recommend it not for the casual history buff but
for the individual who really wants to know
the story behind the design and development of the wartime American bombers.
Col. Joe McCue, USAF (Ret.), Leesburg,
I Won’t Be Home Next Summer: Flight
Lieutenant R.N. Selley DFC (19171941). By Ron Selley and Kerrin Cocks.
Pinetown, South Africa: 30° South
Publishers, 2014. Photographs. Footnotes.
Pp. 191. ISBN 978-1-920143-94-7
This is a biography of the short, but
eventful, life of RAF Flight Lieutenant
Ron Selley. He grew up in South Africa,
became interested in flying, and joined the
RAF just before World War II. Arriving in
England just as the Dunkirk evacuation
and Battle of Britain were starting, Selley
was assigned to Coastal Command, whose
mission was to guard shipping and provide
anti-submarine protection for British convoys. This mission has not been addressed
History / SUMMER 2015
as much in the literature as the more
glamorous efforts of “The Few” in Fighter
Command during the Battle of Britain. So
there’s some historical potential there.
The book was written by a nephew (with
a co-author) whose intention was to document the exploits of a family hero.
Biographies, however, need to be more
than just a recounting of the subject’s
timeline. They need to put the individual’s
life in context within the times he lived.
For compelling biographies, the subject
either had an impact on the times or vice
versa. In this area, this account leaves the
reader a bit wanting.
Selley’s story is told through a series
of letters home and squadron operationsbook entries. While there’s value for air
warfare historians, the approach here is a
bit overdone. Personal letters give a feel
for what life was like in the early war
years for a young South African pilot. His
letters show a perceived prejudice against
awarding medals to “colonial” pilots. He
also didn’t pay much attention to the idea
that “loose lips sink ships.” Many letters
contain comments along the lines of, “[I
did this today]. Don’t say anything to anyone about that. No one is supposed to
know what we [do].” So much for security
awareness. Selley eventually flew to the
point of exhaustion and was relieved a few
months before his untimely death in an
air accident.
The biography provides some insight
into the development of Coastal
Command’s mission, its early challenges,
and the suitability of its aircraft. It does
not adequately describe Selley’s impact on
his small corner of the war and leaves too
many questions. For example, as a
respected pilot in Coastal Command, did
he help develop convoy protection or antisubmarine tactics? What was his contribution to the developing mission? It is not
adequate to merely declare that he was a
“good pilot.” He ultimately suffered from
exhaustion due to insufficient aircraft and
pilots and was pulled from operational flying. He likely had what is known today as
post-traumatic stress syndrome. However,
few details are provided on his decline,
treatment, or recovery.
The structure of the book is also distracting. Much of the story is told by
stringing letters and operations-book
entries together to paint a picture of
Selley’s environment. This works, however, only if there’s sufficient accompanying
narrative to let the reader know the significance of the entries. Personal letters
often have too many references to
unknown subjects. Stringing one unamplified letter or operations entry after
another is not coherent narrative. One
chapter, in fact, begins with 12 straight
History / SUMMER 2015
entries from the squadron operations
book with no context provided.
Further, there is a significant amount
of discussion on the history of South
Africa as background. South African history and geography are not terribly familiar subjects to the average aviation enthusiast. A map or two to provide enlightenment on the Boer War or show where
Zululand is, for instance, would have been
useful. A map depicting Selley’s wartime
area of operations would also have greatly enhanced the description of his missions.
While this book attempts to document
the noble story of a courageous pilot who
lost his life in a great cause, the reader is
left with too many questions. With only
191 pages, there is room to include the
additional information that could have
provided more relevance to Selley’s life.
Lt. Col. Paul Jacobs, USAF (Ret.), National Air and Space Museum Docent
Japanese Fighters in Defense of the
Homeland, 1941-1944, Vol. I. By Leszek
A. Wielicko. Lublin, Poland: Kagero, 2014.
Map. Tables. Illustrations. Photographs.
Notes. Appendices. Bibliography. Pp. 82.
$15.04 paperback ISBN: 978-83-6459606-3
As one with a keen interest in B–29
operations and the air war over the
Japanese Home Islands, I looked forward
to reading this book when it was offered
by the publisher. Having now read it, my
reactions to it are mixed.
The story is certainly an important
piece of history. The Japanese military
leadership had two primary concerns
about air defense before the war in the
Pacific got underway. There was a possible
threat to the homeland from Russian
bombers out of the Kamchatka Peninsula.
That, obviously, never materialized. The
other was the U.S. Pacific Fleet. In 1945,
that did materialize. But the Japanese
completely missed the third threat—longrange bombing by American land-based
aircraft. In the end, this is the one that
effectively ended their dreams of empire.
The Army was put in charge of overall air defense efforts before the war started. They had an organization and some
assets, but there was no question that air
defense at home was subordinate to war
operations abroad. The Doolittle Raid of
April 18, 1942, was certainly a wake-up
call for the high command. Both fighter
and ground anti-aircraft defenses proved
to be totally inadequate. Major changes
had to be made.
Wieliczko has done an excellent job of
researching the organization, units, and
equipment charged with air defense, and
he shows how the establishment was constantly changing throughout the war. One
theme that comes across strongly is that,
no matter what was done at home, it was
quickly undermined by the need to move
units overseas—especially after the U.S.
went on the offensive and the tide of conquests turned against the Japanese.
And then the B–29s showed up starting in June 1944. While initial operational
results from Chinese bases were not good,
the capture of the Marianas and improvements in logistics, tactics, and experience
substantively changed the picture. Japan
never did manage to mount a major
defense such as Luftwaffe aircraft and
flak batteries had made against U.S. and
British bombers in Europe. Vol. II will follow and is supposed to finish the story of
homeland defense in 1945—the sevenmonth period when B–29 operations really got into full swing. I am looking forward
to reading that volume—with some trepidation.
Why the mixed reaction to the book?
No question: it is full of good information.
However, the presentation is the problem.
Japanese is difficult to pronounce, and the
terms are confusing. Wieliczko uses it
throughout: military ranks and organizations are invariably given by their
Japanese term. Writing “11th Flying
Division” instead of “11th Hikoshidan”
would make it much easier for the
English reader to comprehend and maintain the flow of thought. Sentai, Chutai,
Boei Soshireibu, and dozens of other
terms abound in the text. But the most
annoying practice is that of naming the
commander of every unit mentioned—
every time, and with the Japanese rank!
To say that reading and comprehending
the chronological events is ponderous is
an understatement.
All that being said, for the reader
interested in how Japan attempted to
defend the Home Islands against air
attack, this (and, hopefully, the next volume as well) is the book to have. Just plan
to spend some time wading through to
extract the information.
Col. Scott A. Willey, USAF (Ret.), Book
Review Editor, and Docent, NASM’s
Udvar-Hazy Center
The Millionaires’ Squadron: The
Remarkable Story of 601 Squadron
and the Flying Sword. By Tom
Moulson. South Yorkshire, England: Pen
& Sword Books Ltd, 2014. Photographs.
Bibliography. Index. Pp. xi, 237. $44.95.
ISBN: 978-1-78346-339-8
Several years after the Royal Air
Force became an independent service in
1918, the head of the RAF proposed creation of civilian units to complement regular, full-time forces. There would be two
elements: the Special Reserve Air Force
and the Auxiliary (or Territorial) Air Force.
This book is the history of one Auxiliary
squadrons, 601 Squadron (County of
London). Although the parallels are not
precise, the organization and mission of
the Auxiliary were similar to those of the
U.S. Air National Guard.
When 601 was officially formed in
October 1925, its founder and first commander was Lord Grosvenor. Not one to
delegate significant responsibilities, he
personally selected each of the pilots for
the squadron. While no official qualification standards were published, Grosvenor
clearly had three criteria for squadron
membership: 1) given the primitive state
of aviation training and non-availability of
centralized flying schools for the Auxiliary,
it was helpful if an applicant already knew
how to fly; 2) wealth played a role in the
selection process; and 3) most importantly,
in the class-conscious Britain of the 1920s,
the individual had to be a member of the
right social class. These seemed to be
based on the premise that only an officer
could fly an airplane, and only a “gentleman” could be an officer. A newspaper
writer dubbed the group the “Millionaires’
In addition to serving in 601
Squadron in the 1950s, Tom Moulson conducted extensive research into the
squadron’s traditions and operational
records, which makes him well qualified to
write this unit’s history. He wrote the first
version 50 years ago in The Flying Sword:
The Story of 601 Squadron and has made
good use of the wealth of new information
that has come to light since then to produce a more robust story.
Squadron members were avid students of flight, studying evolving trends in
aviation technology and tactics and diligently honing their flying skills. But in the
years before World War II, they participated in hijinks, pranks, and stunts, sometimes to the dismay of higher headquarters. The squadron prided itself on its
somewhat freewheeling approach to good
order and discipline.
When the war began, 601 and other
Auxiliary squadrons became part of
Britain’s full-time forces, operationally
indistinguishable from the active RAF.
Thus, in the World War II chapters the
book becomes the story of the RAF itself,
told through the lens of 601 Squadron. It
served with distinction in the Battle of
Britain, the Siege of Malta, North Africa,
and Northern Italy. Moulson well describes these combat operations. For a reader unfamiliar with the RAF in World War
II, the book can stand alone as a vivid
telling of its story.
None of the unit’s aviators was more
interesting than Roger Bushell. Assigned
to 601 at the start of the war, he was soon
given command of another squadron.
During the evacuation of Dunkirk he was
shot down and captured by Germans,
escaped, and was recaptured no fewer
than three times. His most famous escape
attempt was the subject of a book and
movie, The Great Escape, in which “Big X”
was portrayed by Richard Attenborough.
Moulson’s telling of this story, unembellished by movie theatrics, is one of the highlights of the book.
Post-war budget cutbacks and shifting defense policy led to disbandment of
the Auxiliary squadrons in March 1957.
Moulson presents an honest assessment of
this unpopular decision and clearly
laments inactivation of a unit with a distinguished record and rich history. But at
the same time he acknowledges it was difficult to maintain flying proficiency in the
increasingly high-tech aircraft of the late
1950s and concludes the requisite skills
could not be maintained by a force of parttime pilots.
Moulson’s primary objective is to tell
the story of 601 Squadron, and he accomplishes this in fine fashion. He is an excellent storyteller who gives the reader an
appreciation of what life was like in the
Millionaires’ Squadron and an understanding of the context in which the
Auxiliaries were created, operated, and
eventually disbanded. It’s an interesting
story told well.
Lt. Col. Joseph Romito, USA (Ret.), Docent,
NASM’s Udvar-Hazy and National Mall
Guardian Angel: Life and Death
Adventures with Pararescue, the
World’s Most Powerful Commando
Rescue Force. By SMSgt William F. Sine,
USAF (Ret). Oxford: Casemate Publishers,
2012. Photographs. Pp. 240. $20 ISBN:
Guardian Angel is the U.S. Air Force’s
premiere and unique human weapon system dedicated to personnel recovery (PR).
This weapon system consists of combat
rescue officers (CRO); pararescuemen
(PJ); survival, evasion, resistance, and
escape (SERE) specialists; and the equip-
ment these individuals use to execute PR
for the USAF and the Department of
In Guardian Angel, William Sine provides a wonderful adventure in the trueto-life compilation of his own personal stories and those of other American heroes.
Sine takes the reader through decades of
Air Force pararescue service starting in
the post-Vietnam War era, through the
tragedy of Kohbar Towers, to Operations
Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Numerous anecdotal stories provide
insight into the ingenuity, courageousness,
and selfless dedication demanded by, and
showcased within, the U.S. Air Force
pararescue career field. Readers are able
to understand the rigorous selection
process that all young CROs and PJs must
endure in the selection course, also known
as indoctrination. Soon Sine has the reader following him on breathtaking highaltitude low-opening (HALO) jumps into
the open ocean, and rescuing downed airmen from triple-canopy jungles.
The reader also endures the tragic
effects, the chaos, the confusion, and, ultimately, the heroic efforts of the young PJs
and other U.S. service members during the
June 1996 terrorist attack on Kohbar
Towers in Saudi Arabia. The attack,
orchestrated by Hezbollah and backed by
Iran, left nineteen U.S. military members
dead and 498 others wounded. If not for
the efforts of the PJs stationed there that
day, the toll would have much higher for
the U.S. to pay. Sine also paints a picture of
what our USAF PJs are dealing with
today. The pain of the physical and, sometimes, mental injures that are much less
noticeable but just as real, are a reminder
of the price our service members pay for
our freedom and for our safety. He reminds
us that these are flesh-and-blood men;
while often super heroic, they are, unfortunately, not super heroes but mere mortals.
Beyond telling a great story, Sine is
able to explain complex equipment and
technical procedures in a simplified manner allowing readers to fully understand
and appreciate the action. This is no easy
task when dealing with the rescue skillset, as it is tremendously specialized and
complex with its own jargon. Yet Sine produces an easily followed book appropriate
for all readers. This book should be on anyone’s reading list that is interested in the
Air Force rescue mission or Air Force
Special Operations as a military career.
Lt. Col. John D. McElroy, USAF, Joint
Personnel Recovery Agency
History / SUMMER 2015
Books to Review
Allison, Richard. Operation Thunderclap and the
Black March: Two Stories from the Unstoppable
Haverford, Penn. & Oxford:
Crosley—They Gave
Me Bomb
a Seafire.
2014. Notes.
The Most
Most Glorious US Bomber Mission of WWII. 248p.
Pp. 256. Airmen.
ISBN: 336p.
Homan & Reilly—Black
The Story ofIndex.
the Tuskegee
Hunt—Melvin Laird
and Nixon’s Quest for a Post-Vietnam Foreign Policy 1969-1973. 31p.
March—Wings of the Fleet: 50 Years of the Canadian Sea King. 147p.
Popravak—The Oregon Air National Guard. 127p. Publisher
Anyone who believes he or she is qualified to substantively assess one of the new books listed above is invited to apply
for a gratis copy of the book. The prospective reviewer should contact:
Col. Scott A. Willey, USAF (Ret.)
3704 Brices Ford Ct.
Fairfax, VA 22033
Tel. (703) 620-4139
e-mail: [email protected]
History Mystery Answer
On August 17, 1942, the 97th Bomb Group
(shown flying in formation at right) conducted the
first American strategic bombing mission over
Europe when twelve B–17 Flying Fortresses
bombed the Rouen-Sotteville Railyard in France.
Paul Tibbets Jr. was the pilot who flew both on the
Rouen mission and dropped the first atomic bomb
on Hiroshima, Japan. For the mission to Rouen,
then Major Tibbets flew a B–17E (Serial number
41-2578) named Butcher Shop. For the mission to
Hiroshima, Colonel Tibbets flew a B–29 Superfortress (Serial number 44-86292) named Enola
Gay. Bombadier Thomas Ferebee and Navigator
Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk flew with Paul Tibbets
in Europe as part of the crew of the B–17 Red
Gremlin and flew with him aboard the Enola Gay.
To learn more about the dropping of the first
atomic bombs and to see more images, visit: and
To view the Roger Freeman collection of
15,000+ images from the European air war, which
was the source for some of these official USAAF
photos and to learn more about the air war via an
interactive archive, visit the American Air
Museum’s website at
History / SUMMER 2015
Compiled by
George W. Cully
July 5-10, 2015
The International Organization of
Women Pilots, better known as the
Ninety-Nines, will hold its annual meeting at the Sheraton Munchen Arabella
Park Hotel in Munich, Germany. For
further details, visit the Organization
website at
July 6-9, 2015
The American Institute for Aeronautics
and Astronautics will host its 20th annual International Space Planes and Hypersonic Systems and Technologies Conference
at the Strathclyde University Technology &
Innovation Center in Glasgow, Scotland. For
more details, see the Institute’s website at hypersonics2015/.
August 13-16, 2015
The Mars Society will host its 18th annual convention in the Edward J. Pryzbyla
Center on the campus of the Catholic
University of American in Washington,
DC. For registration and other information, visit the Society’s website at
August 16-21, 2015
The International Committee for the
History of Technology will host its 42nd
annual Symposium in Tel Aviv, Israel. The
theme of this year’s gathering is “The
History of High-Technologies and Their
Socio-Cultural Contexts.” For further
details, see the Committee’s website at
w w w. i c o h t e c. o r g / a n n u a l - m e e t i n g 2015.html.
August 27-31, 2015
The US Army Center of Military
History will conduct its biennial Army
Historians Training Symposium at the
Crowne Plaza National Airport in Crystal
City, Arlington, Virginia. The symposium
is open to Army and DoD historians and
professional historians from other government agencies, along with members of
academia and the general public. The
theme of this year’s symposium is “Adap ting to Peace; Preparing for War;
Responding to Crisis: An Unworkable
Triad?” To participate, see the Center’s
website post at
mil/news/ 2015/150300a_AHTS .html.
August 31-2 September 2015
The American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics will host a Space
and Astronautics Forum and Exposition
(AIAA SPACE 2015) at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, California.
For details, see their website at
September 10-12, 2015
The Tailhook Association will host its
annual convention and reunion at John
Ascuaga’s Nugget Hotel in Sparks, Nevada.
This year’s theme will be “Junior Officer
Tailhookers – Tip of the Spear.” For more
information, including reservations, visit
their website at
September 12, 2015
The Museum of Flight will exhibit the
results of its 2015 Spirit of Flight
Photography Competition in the T. A.
Wilson Great Gallery at the Museum’s
main facility in Seattle, Washington. This
juried competition will remain on display
for several months. For more information,
September 14-16, 2015
The Air Force Association will present
its annual Air & Space Conference and
Technology Exposition at the National Harbor Convention Center in National Harbor,
Maryland. For details, see the Association’s
website at
September 17-18, 2015
The History Department of the United
States Naval Academy will host the 2015
McMullen Naval History Symposium at
the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Mary land. The symposium will put special
emphasis on the centennial of World War I.
For more information, see the Department’s
website at sium.
September 18-19, 2015
The Prince Tamakado Japan Centre at
the University of Alberta in Edmonton,
Alberta, Canada will host a conference to
commemorate the 70th anniversary of the
dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan.
For more detailed information, see the
Centre’s website at
September 19, 2015
The National Museum of the Pacific
War will host its 2015 Symposium at the
Fredericksburg Theater Company’s Steve
W. Shepherd Theater in Fredericksburg,
Texas. This is the second part of a two-part
series entitled “In Stealth We Trust:
Special Operations and Their Origin in
WWII.” For the particulars, contact the
Museum at
September 23-26, 2015
The Society of Experimental Test
Pilots will host its 59th Annual Symposium & Banquet at the Grand Californian
Hotel in Anaheim, California. For more
information, visit the Society’s website at
October 2, 2015
The National Aviation Hall of Fame will
induct its 2015 honorees at a ceremony to
be held in the Hall at the National Museum
of the United States Air Force in Dayton,
Ohio. This year’s honorees include retired
USAF Brig Gen Robert Cardenas, Robert
Hartzell, Gene Krantz, and Abe Silverstein.
For more details of the event, visit the Hall’s
website at
October 8-11, 2015
The Society for the History of Technology will hold its annual conference in
Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more details
as they become available, check the Society’s
website at
October 12-14, 2015
The Association of the United States
Army will host its annual meeting and
exhibition at the Walter E. Washington
Convention Center in Washington, DC. For
more information, check the Association’s
Readers are invited to submit listings of
upcoming events Please include the name of
the organization, title of the event, dates
and location of where it will be held, as well
as contact information. Send listings to:
George W. Cully
3300 Evergreen Hill
Montgomery, AL 36106
(334) 277-2165
E-mail: [email protected]
History / SUMMER 2015
11th Bombardment Group “H” Assn
Jul 8-12, 2015, Dayton, OH Contact:
Brenda Fulkerson
26611 N. Dixie Hwy, Suite 103
Perrysburg, OH 43551
419-872-5000, ext. 3154
[email protected]
91st Tactical Fighter Squadron Sep
24-27, 2015, Fairborn, OH Contact:
Dion Makris
7152 Hartcrest Ln,
Centerville, OH 45459
[email protected]
20th Fighter Wing Assn—all ranks,
1930s to present 20th FW (20th FG,
FBW, TFW) Oct 14-18, 2015, New
Orleans, Louisiana Contact:
Lt Col (Ret) David Skilling
1605 Cheatham Hill Rd SW,
Marietta, GA 30064
[email protected]
[email protected]
91st Tactical Fighter Squadron. Sep
24-27, 2015, Fairborn, OH. Contact:
Dion Makris
7152 Hartcrest Ln,
Centerville, OH 45459
[email protected]
98th Bomb Group/Wing Aug 27-30,
2015, Fairborn, OH Contact:
Dennis Posey
1780 Chasewood Park Ln,
Marietta, GA 30066
[email protected]
160th Fighter Squadron Aug 6-9, 2015,
Dayton/Fairborn OH Contact:
Robert Mintz
403 Tantallon
Peachtree City, GA 30269
[email protected]
47th Armament & Electronics Squadron Oct 8-12, 2015, Fairborn, OH. Contact:
Alex Sallustino
379 Hanging Rock Rd,
Flora, IL 62839-3610
[email protected]
310th Bomb Wing Sep 15-18, 2015,
Fairborn, OH Contact:
Neil Ray
9295 Shallow Creek Dr,
Loveland, OH 45140
[email protected]
86th Fighter-Bomber Grp Assn, WWII
Sep 30-Oct 4, 2015, Fort Walton Beach, FL
Dallas Lowe
P.O. Box 313,
Shalimar, FL 32579-0313
316th Tactical Airlift Wing Sep 21-26,
2015, Fairborn, OH Contact:
Jerry Haines
2411 South Tecumseh Rd,
Springfield, OH 45502
[email protected]
366th Fighter Assn Sep 19-24, 2017,
Fairborn, OH Contact:
Paul Jacobs
8853 Amarantha Ct
Reynoldsburg, OH 43068
[email protected]
463rd Airlifters Assn Sep 21-26, 2015,
Fairborn, OH Contact:
Jerry Haines
2411 South Tecumseh Rd,
Springfield, OH 45502
[email protected]
4477th Test & Evaluation Squadron
Sep 8-11, 2016, Fairborn, OH Contact:
Ted Drake
1212 Westmont Dr,
Southlake, TX 76092
[email protected]
Air Force Officer Candidate School.
Oct 8-12, 2015. All classes (1943-1963).
Montgomery, AL. Contact:
Dave Mason
[email protected]
List provided by:
Rob Bardua
National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Public Affairs Division
1100 Spaatz Street
WPAFB, OH 45433-7102
(937) 255-1386
In Memoriam
Lt. Col. Robert Hite, USAF (Ret.)
one of the last surviving Doolittle Tokyo
Raiders, died at his home in Nashville,
Tenn., on March 29. He was 95.
Hite was the co-pilot on plane sixteen, dubbed “Bat Out of Hell,” during
the top secret April 18, 1942, mission to
bomb Japan. The raid, led by Gen. (then
colonel) Jimmy Doolittle, had little
impact on the Japanese military, but significantly boosted American morale during World War II.
Hite was captured by the Japanese
in China following the raid and was
imprisoned in Shanghai for forty
months, during which time he was held
in solitary confinement, tortured, and
starved until liberated on Aug. 20, 1945.
He remained on active duty until Sept.
30, 1951.
History / SUMMER 2015
During the Korean War, Hite once
again returned to active duty and served
overseas before he was released from
duty for the second time in November
He received the Distinguished
Flying Cross, Purple Heart with one
Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Chinese
Breast Order of Pao Ting. Hite. Along
with the other seventy-nine Doolittle
Raiders, he
Congressional Gold Medal, which will be
presented on April 15.
Only two Doolittle Raiders are still
living. They are: retired Lt. Col. Richard
Cole, co-pilot of crew one, and retired
SSgt. David Thatcher, engineer-gunner
of crew number seven.
New History Mystery
Test your knowledge of air power history by trying to answer this quarter’s history quiz. Since the
goal is to educate and not merely stump readers, you
should find the multipart question, challenging but
not impossible. Good Luck!
This August marks the anniversaries of two
milestone events of American strategic bombing during World War II: the first American bombing mission
over Europe and the first (and only) time atomic
bombs were dropped in anger. In both cases, very few
bombers were involved in the mission but both represented significant firsts in American airpower.
What was the target for that first American
bombing mission in August 1942? This pilot flew both
by Dan Simonsen
the first American bombing mission in the European
Theater and the first dropping of an atomic bomb?
For our readers who love nose-art, what were the
names of the B–17 and B–29 flown on the two missions. For the real detailed-oriented readers: while a
last minute aircraft change prevented these two aviators from flying the first American bombing mission
with the pilot in our second question, they flew with
him on the mission to drop the first atomic bomb (the
three are pictured here on Tinian in ’45).
Go to page 61 to learn the answers.
Guidelines for Contributors
We seek quality articles—based on sound scholarship, perceptive analysis, and/or firsthand experience—which are
well-written and attractively illustrated. The primary criterion is that the manuscript contributes to knowledge. Articles
submitted to Air Power History must be original contributions and not be under consideration by any other publication
at the same time. If a manuscript is under consideration by another publication, the author should clearly indicate this
at the time of submission. Each submission must include an abstract—a statement of the article’s theme, its historical
context, major subsidiary issues, and research sources. Abstracts should not be longer than one page.
Manuscripts should be double-spaced throughout, and prepared according to the Chicago Manual of Style (University of
Chicago Press). Use civilian dates and endnotes. Because submissions are evaluated anonymously, the author’s name should
appear only on the title page. Authors should provide on a separate page brief biographical details, to include institutional
or professional affiliation and recent publications, for inclusion in the printed article. Pages, including those containing illustrations, diagrams or tables, should be numbered consecutively. Any figures and tables must be clearly produced ready for
photographic reproduction. The source should be given below the table. Endnotes should be numbered consecutively through
the article with a raised numeral corresponding to the list of notes placed at the end.
Electronic submissions are preferred. Articles should be submitted via e-mail as an attachment, in Microsoft Word.
Electronic photographs and graphics should be copied to a CD and mailed if they exceed 5-8 megabytes.
There is no standard length for articles, but 4,500-5,500 words is a general guide.
Manuscripts and editorial correspondence should be sent to Richard Wolf, Editor, c/o Air Power History, 6022 Cromwell
PL. Alexandria, VA 22315, e-mail: [email protected]
History / SUMMER 2015
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SUMMER 2015 - Volume 62, Number 2